Do You Distrust Men Who Are Trustworthy?

“It’s full trust or no trust.” 

You’ve heard me say this before but it bears repeating before you read today’s article.

As always, I’m not telling you to trust an untrustworthy man.

I am telling you two important things:

  1. If you can’t trust him, dump him.
  2. It’s not a man’s job to “earn” your trust. Trust is given and then lost, the same way one is innocent until proven guilty. If a man’s never done anything wrong to you, you can’t make him “prove” he’s a trustworthy guy.
  3. If you treat a trustworthy man as if he’s untrustworthy, he will not be your man for long. No more than you’d stay in a relationship with a man who constantly checked your phone, monitored your social media, and grilled you about your whereabouts.

“It’s full trust or no trust.”

That brings me to today’s link about self-sabotage from Lori Gottlieb at New York.

In it, she advises a woman who was so convinced her boyfriend was cheating that he dumped her. Although the woman swears her gut is never wrong, she still has no evidence that he’s betrayed her. Gottlieb challenges her thinking.

“Why did your boyfriend break up with you? Because you didn’t trust him. Because he told you nothing was going on, and you chose not to believe him. Because you obsessively searched for “evidence” — evidence you freely acknowledge you never found — for a crime he repeatedly told you he wasn’t committing. The only “evidence” you had was your infallible gut — despite his telling you about this friend and his history with her upfront; despite his efforts to reassure you. I can’t tell you how many relationships I’ve seen implode simply because one person was terrified of being abandoned, then did everything in his or her power to make the other person break up with them.

If you make an honest man pay the price for the sins of men in your past – you’re going to end up pushing all the honest men away.

What makes self-sabotage so tricky is that it attempts to solve one problem (alleviate your abandonment anxiety) by creating another (making your partner want to leave).  You get so wrapped up in proving your theory, in the “stress and anxiety,” in some outdated story about how good things won’t last for you, that there’s no room left for the relationship to take place.”

This is not to suggest that men are saints, no one cheats, or anything that extreme.

All Gottlieb is saying is that you have to judge men on an individual basis instead of assuming the next guy has anything to do with the last guy.

If you don’t – if you make an honest man pay the price for the sins of men in your past – you’re going to end up pushing all the honest men away.

Your thoughts, below, are greatly appreciated.

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Comments:

  1. 1
    S.

    You aren’t telepathic, Frustrated. Maybe what you’re hearing isn’t your gut but your fear. Your gut needs to recalibrate, and that can only happen when you can better manage your fear — a process that will require a combination of clear-eyed insight, self-observation, and self-compassion.

    This is what I took from this article. That guts aren’t necessarily wrong, just we might be3 misinterpreting what they are saying.  Her fear was real and she needs to go through that process of insight, self-observation, and work to really read her intuition correctly and manage her fear.   That work isn’t easy or fast, but it must be done if she or others like her want a successful relationship.

  2. 2
    Isobel Matheson

    Well, my 1st husband left me homeless, jobless, car-less, and penniless, but did kindly let me have our two young children all to myself. FFWD a few years and, after lots of hard work I was back on my feet and managing OK on my own (well, with 2 children), I let myself fall for another guy. I never, ever, ever allowed myself to measure him against my ex, despite there being times when I did wonder what was going on. I was not going to let myself become one of those shrews who lumped all men into the same category. Which is a pity, as he turned out to be not only cheating but, a really nasty piece of work as well, leaving me and my by then almost grown up daughters traumatised. I spent the next few years healing and rebuilding and, again, although happy by myself, started seeing a man who eventually became husband number 2. Kind and caring, his honesty shone through. So much so that he found it really difficult to disguise his creeping disappointment in me that I didn’t meditate ‘properly’ and really see God. When he told me I didn’t love myself enough I showed him just how wrong he was and walked away from him.
    I am trusting. I don’t judge according to gossip or based on my past experiences. I take as I find. In the case of men, I have found them to be lying jerks, and now I have decided to be solo, I am the happiest I have ever been in my life.
    Your advice is sound, Evan. I wish it was worth taking it!

    1. 2.1
      Stacy

      Isobel,

      So because you dealt (put up with) 3 losers, all men are lying jerks?

      1. 2.1.1
        Isobel Matheson

        No, I have 5 amazing brothers, great male friends and colleagues, and my late father was a wonderful man. Through them I knew not to put up with any jerks.
        I guess I’m not interested enough to ‘put out’ any more and risk it. I’m happy by myself, and I’d like to think that it’s not because I don’t trust men. Maybe I don’t trust my judgement.

        1. Stacy

          Isobel,

          Fair enough.  But why not just choose to improve how you pick the men you date as opposed to throwing in the towel? However, if you are truly happy single, the choice to be so is great. I just believe it shouldn’t be because you’ve picked the wrong men.

          I went through a traumatic divorce with an emotionally abusive asshole so I completely get it. If I had decided that it’s all bullshyt, I would have never met the man I have now and he is amazing beyond words. And even though I was content and happy being single, life is so much better now (and bonus, I get someone I could actually grow old with).

        2. Gala

          I wish we could dispose of the notion of “your picker is broken, it’s your own fault you picked those guys”. We are not mind readers. People present themselves in one way when we date, then change. Sometimes years later. Sure it is possible to weed out obvious creeps and losers, but to think that there’s a magic formula that if followed will allow you to pick a good partner is just lunacy.  For example, I have this girlfriend and we are both divorced. The funny thing is – we picked drastically different men as husbands, and we used drastically different approaches and we had different things that were important to us, and yet our marriages deteriorated in the same exact way – with our husbands losing their jobs and with them any interest in doing anything but drinking beer, doing drugs and watching football. They even acted with the same entitelement in our divorces. Yet, you wouldn’t be able to find two more different persons if you tried. seriously. One of them was a white collar over-educated mamas boy from a liberal east coast city, and another was from a working class midwestern family and had completed several tours in afganistan. Go figure.

          As for the letter, well perhaps that woman sabotaged her relationship by not trusting the guy, or perhaps he sabotaged it by continuing to hang out with his ex for no reason (knowing his g/f didnt like it). He chose the ex over his g/f at the end so she sort of has her answer, i think.

        3. Evan Marc Katz

          Gala, have you read, watched or listened to any of my products? If so, what? And what did you think?

  3. 3
    Angel

    Hi Evan, I’ve been reading your blogs for several months….. I’m one of the women who really feel tired and frustrated with men based on my experiences ….. what you wrote on your blogs really give me hopes, that good and relationship oriented men are still out there

    But reading the comment sections  (not only about this subject, but for all other subjects) makes me feel pessimistic again, to know the reality is quite the opposite, it’s just same with what I believed and experienced so far…… (those who wrote the comments mostly based on the reality they had)……..

    1. 3.1
      Karl R

      Angel,

      I think you’re seeing two different things which are affecting your reality.

       

      Environment affects a person’s perspective:

      People’s opinions are biased by the people they hang around with.  People in law enforcement often develop a negative view of humanity, because they spend much of their time around the worst members of society.  People who dedicate their life to volunteer work end up surrounded by people who give of their time and/or money to help strangers, so they develop a much more positive attitude.

      Your environment changes your perspective.

      Most single women (and men) primarily socialize with their peers … other single women and men.  If someone is single, relationship-minded, and consistently running into terrific, relationship-minded members of the opposite sex … they don’t stay single for that long.

      This blog is similar. If someone’s dating life is going incredibly smoothly, they don’t show up here in the first place.

       

      Attitude affects a person’s perspective:

      Are you familiar with confirmation bias? People focus on information that supports what they already believe, rather than information that challenges that belief.

      Look at Stacy’s comment above: “I went through a traumatic divorce with an emotionally abusive asshole so I completely get it. If I had decided that it’s all bullshyt, I would have never met the man I have now and he is amazing beyond words.”

      Compare it to your comment: “But reading the comment sections  (not only about this subject, but for all other subjects) makes me feel pessimistic again, to know the reality is quite the opposite, it’s just same with what I believed and experienced so far”

      Focus on comments that challenge your negative beliefs.

      I would have never gotten married if I based my opinion of women on the most negative things I read on this blog (whether those things were written by men or women).  Focus on the people who have more positive attitudes and generally seem to have their shit together.  (Currently, I would recommend anything Jeremy writes.  His comments are always well-thought out.)

  4. 4
    Tyrone

    @Gala

    “People present themselves in one way when we date, then change. Sometimes years later. Sure it is possible to weed out obvious creeps and losers, but to think that there’s a magic formula that if followed will allow you to pick a good partner is just lunacy.”

    People certainly put their best foot forward in the initial stages of dating, but I don’t believe people in general change all that much. Drastic change is tough. Its one reason why people spend money on therapy and the like. I think what is much more likely is that we ignore the early warning signs because of love blinders until the signs grow big enough to where they can no longer be ignored. Maybe personality wise the. men you and your friend picked aren’t as different as you feel they are. And there are certainly people out there that pull the 180. But i don’t think it’s anywhere near as many as folks claim.

     

    1. 4.1
      Gala

      Evidently, while a positive change is tough, deterioration is super easy for anybody to achieve!   There were no warning signs. There were no red flags. There were no indication that these two men, but educated, masculine in their own ways, with good paying jobs and self-proclaimed family values, would go on to lose interest in being any of those things 2 years into their marriages. Oh, and you know what else they eerily had in common? Within a year of divorce they both reverted to the states we found them: got off their asses, got jobs, got their own places, lost weight etc. It’s like, are you kidding me? What conclusion about men should I draw from this observation, logically?

      1. 4.1.1
        Tyrone

        @Gala

        “What conclusion about men should I draw from this observation, logically?”

        Obviously I wasn’t there but I don’t imagine that both of these guys just woke up one day and said fuck work i want drugs. Maybe they were depressed after losing their jobs and coped poorly. Just a possibility.

        What conclusion should you logically come to about men in general from your observation of 2 men? None. Because it’s 2 men.

      2. 4.1.2
        Theodora

        The conclusion I can draw from these stories, with only the facts you present,  is that these 2 men were in miserable marriages that exhausted their energy and joie the vivre and led to severe depresssion. As soon as they escaped their miserable condition, they regained their energy and joie de vivre, which they used to have before marriage. I mean, it’s the only logical conclusion I can draw from the succession of events you present: normal (bachelor)  –  miserable (married) – normal again (divorced).

        1. Gala

          My girlfriend and I were likewise extremely depressed and miserable beyond belief in these marriages. This is why we were the ones to file. Yet, somehow we managed to stay employed and drug free. And the guys reverted to that state because nobody was paying their bills anymore, so they had to. They only acted properly when they HAD TO. Which brings me to the correct conclusion: in order to have a successful relationship with a man, you must arrange it in a way that he HAS TO behave responsibly. Clearly, most men lack self-regulation that keeps them motivated and on target when it’s not dictated by some primal needs – such as food and sex (and if you wife works and pays rent and bills and has sex with you – problems solved!!). Most women, I reckon, have accomplished this goal by popping out 2-4 kids and quitting their jobs. In my next relationship I intend to do some variation of that.

          I have recently read a book by Eve Babitz where she has the following passage: “I’ve often noticed that there is a moment when a man developed enough confidence and ease in a relationship to bore you to death….I have found that what usually brings this on is if the woman displays some special kindness. Like making dinner… The thing is, I know you can’t make them dinner. Not a mouthful, not if they are dying”.

          Metaphorically speaking, this was the conclusion I drew. You can’t make those f#^{s “dinner”. You can’t be too accommodating, too kind, you have to keep the healthy degree of pressure on. AT ALL TIMES. like horses, men should be made work, or put Dow. (metaphorically speaking). You can’t just keep them around letting them roam aimlessly. So… that’s my life lesson.

        2. Evan Marc Katz

          Oh, Gala. Look at the stereotype you drew of men as unmotivated and infantile.

          You should be careful or people on the internet might conclude you’re sexist.

          Or is that only the case when other people draw sterotypes?

          I forget.

        3. Theodora

          This is a gloomy, depressing view of men and relationships. It also doesn’t fit what I see in reality, where most men have their act together, some of them more than me.

          I guess if I was in a relationship with somebody who saw and treated me as a wild horse to be donesticated and tamed, I would start to drink and take drugs, too.

        4. Gala

          Theo:

          I guess if I was in a relationship with somebody who saw and treated me as a wild horse to be donesticated and tamed, I would start to drink and take drugs, too

          I thought you were insisting you were a woman? I am confused.

          Evan:

          Oh, Gala. Look at the stereotype you drew of men as unmotivated and infantile.

          Too funny 🙂 But I don’t think there’s such a stereotype. It is a generalization, not  a stereotype. Which, as any generalization, I admit is flawed, but with men you never know really do you, which one you got – the one who can motivate himself or the one who’d be happy to coast because he “feels emasculated” oh what not, because it is of course the woman’s fault that she was able to keep the family afloat on her own without his contribution, right? You don’t know until it’s too late and they’re sitting on a couch in their filth surrounded by empty beer bottles, at which point the only thing left to do is to write a $10,000 retainer check to a divorce attorney. No, better safe than sorry!

        5. Katie

          Gala says “but with men you never know really do you, which one you got – the one who can motivate himself or the one who’d be happy to coast”

           

          And your suggesting that it’s primarily men that think like this?

           

          Feels like a cheap blow here but…

           

          Most women, I reckon, have accomplished this goal by popping out 2-4 kids and quitting their jobs. In my next relationship I intend to do some variation of that.”

           

          And the above suggests to me that you feel like you are that unmotivated type and are trying to blanket men in assumptions to assuage your own feelings of inadequacy.  Just my thought.

           

          Oh and this…

           

          Gala says “You can’t make those f#^{s “dinner”. You can’t be too accommodating, too kind, you have to keep the healthy degree of pressure on. AT ALL TIMES. like horses

           

          …Is just foul.

           

      3. 4.1.3
        Theodora

        I am a woman, as Evan very clearly pointed out, because he can see some private information about me.

        It’s just that from what you say, I can feel a deep empathy and pity for your ex-husband and what he had to go through, because I understand how treating somebody like a horse in training can push him over the edge to the point of resorting to drugs and alcohol to ease the stress and the pain. Well, at least he is free and healthy again now, poor man.

        1. Gala

          Honestly there’s now way to tell who is who on the internet. Using a standard web proxy anybody can make their IP look like they are in any country on earth, and email addresses are free… but regardless of who you are, you have missed the point: I did NOT treat my husband as such, and that was exactly my mistake, sweetie. Men need to work. When they don’t, they spiral down.

           

        2. Emily, the original

          Theodora,

          I understand how treating somebody like a horse in training can push him over the edge to the point of resorting to drugs and alcohol to ease the stress and the pain.

          That’s not fair. These are grown men. They made their on decisions.

        3. Katie

          Emily says, “That’s not fair. These are grown men. They made their on decisions.”

           

          Would you say the same if the genders were reversed?

           

          If a man talking about his wife said, “You can’t make that f#^{s “dinner”. You can’t be too accommodating, too kind, you have to keep the healthy degree of pressure on. AT ALL TIMES. like horses, women should be made work, or put Dow. (metaphorically speaking). You can’t just keep them around letting them roam aimlessly.” 

          She’s in this kind of toxic relationship and she turns to drink before she finally gets up the nerve to leave him. And after she’s recovered and moved on you would tell her that her suffering  was irrelevant to her alcohol or drug abuse?

           

           

           

           

           

        4. Emily, the original

          Katie,

          You misunderstood me. Theodora implied that Gala’s behavior drove these men to drugs and alcohol. I responded that they were grown men who made their own choices.

        5. Katie

          Hi Emily.

           

          I understood, and I disagreed with you. I’m not suggesting that the men are blameless, but from the story information we both have, they sound like victims to me and they relied on unhealthy coping mechansims during an abusive relationship.

           

          I agree that grown-ups are responsible for their own decision-making. But I also acknowledge that truly abusive relationships can bring out the worst in victims. For example, I was not achieveing at my highest potential when I was in an abusive relationship, but I escaped from it and thrived. I empathize with the men in Gala’s story.

          I responded to your statement by illustrating the level of toxicity that Gala herself was bringing into the relationship. I attempted to illustrate it by reversing the genders and asking you that if you had a friend who escaped from a relationship with a man who thought and said the things above…

          “You can’t make that f#^{s “dinner”. You can’t be too accommodating, too kind, you have to keep the healthy degree of pressure on. AT ALL TIMES. like horses,…”

          …if you had a friend who escaped, would you continue to chastise her for her mistakes that she made during this time? Or would you congratulate her for escaping a horrible situation and fixing her unhealthy coping mechanisms?

           

           

        6. Emily, the original

          Katie,

          It sounded like the dynamic in the relationships was toxic and that the men were experiencing depression. Whether it was from losing their jobs or from being in an unhealthy relationship or both, I don’t know. I was specifically referring to the alcohol and drug abuse. No one drives another person to do that and you are powerless as the spouse to stop that.

        7. Karl R

          Gala said:

          “Honestly there’s now way to tell who is who on the internet.”

          Do you think it’s possible to recognize a woman’s voice or an Eastern European accent on the phone?  Maybe even easier if video is involved?

          Just pointing out the obvious, but Evan offers coaching services over the phone. I’m not certain if he ever does them by videoconferencing, but it’s at least possible.

           

          Evan has also been known to speak to people on the phone and meet them in person even when they aren’t his clients.

      4. 4.1.4
        Clare

        Gala,

        “What conclusion about men should I draw from this observation, logically?”

        I really fail to see how you can draw any conclusion at all about men from this observation. I know that sample sizes vary greatly across different studies, but I think it’s fair to say that any study with only two subjects would be laughed off, and the results would be, to use your phrasing, “junk science.”

         

        Our own experiences always feel more real because they happened to us, and the conclusions we draw from them always feel more true because we lived the experience. But consider for a moment that your experience of men is very different from the experiences of many, many other women. I have dated and been in relationships with mostly successful, financially stable, generous men who stayed that way throughout the time I knew them. And I can assure you, I did not have to crack the whip at all to make them that way. So what conclusion should draw about men based on my experiences?

      5. 4.1.5
        Shaukat

        Which brings me to the correct conclusion: in order to have a successful relationship with a man, you must arrange it in a way that he HAS TO behave responsibly.

        One of the most idiotic statements I’ve read in awhile, and it completely nullifies your previous astute statements on stereotypes. You’re either trolling or completely confused. From now on I’m just going to troll the hell out of all your posts until Evan bans me.

        Not really serious, but your above statement is bizarre.

         

        P.S: Your distinction between a stereotype and a generalization is strained, to say the least.

        1. Gala

          My distinction is not strained at all. Stereotype is by definition a widely held common belief. My own personal generalization which I draw for myself and share with a few people is not a stereotype. If you think otherwise you can take it up with the dictionary….

      6. 4.1.6
        Stacy

        Gala,

        9 times out of 10, there ARE warning signs and red flags.  Sorry, people ALWAYS reveal who they are over time IF you give them enough space and time to do so.  When you see red flags and choose to deal with it, you chose to do so period.  And if, as in your example, there are men who lost interest during the marriage, well, you can’t avoid someone losing interest so what you do is, you decide if to put up with it or leave. The fact that they all of a sudden changed after a year of divorce says that there was a process of things seriously going wrong within the marriage. The SIGNs were that they did not VALUE their spouse. As the spouse who is not valued, you see the red flags and try to work on it (within reason) and then you leave if nothing changes. If you stick around for years and years putting up with the crap, the onus is on you after seeing the red flags.

    2. 4.2
      Emily, the original

      Tyrone,

       I think what is much more likely is that we ignore the early warning signs because of love blinders until the signs grow big enough to where they can no longer be ignored. 

      Very true. I have a friend who let this guy move in with her fairly quickly after meeting him. He had very recently broken up with another live-in girlfriend. Things had ended very badly, as in, the former girlfriend had called the police. A couple of years later, the same thing happened with my friend. She threw him out and  within weeks he had hooked up with a third live-in girlfriend. Women were his means to an end. He needed a place to live. Had my friend been able to see past his insane level of hotness (hotness but not great personality, imo) she would have seen the pattern.

  5. 5
    Shaukat

    Within a year of divorce they both reverted to the states we found them: got off their asses, got jobs, got their own places, lost weight etc. It’s like, are you kidding me? What conclusion about men should I draw from this observation, logically?

    Lol, I don’t know, maybe their marriages were what was stressing them out. I kid;)

  6. 6
    Jeremy

    Gala, I hear the pain in your writing.  I am sorry that you had the experience you did and bear the scars.  If I might be so bold, I’d like to give you an observation to help get you past the conclusions you have drawn.  Good men don’t react badly to being treated well by a woman.  This is a common misconception that I see over and over in the comments section here – a projection of women’s perspective on men.  Women need to respect men to be attracted to them, and so women worry that men will lose respect for them if they treat them too well.  This is false.  Men lose neither respect nor attraction when someone treats them well.  But the kernel of truth in your writing, IMHO, is that men need to feel admired by women for the qualities they perceive as masculine.  If they can’t feel admired (either because the woman disrespects them or because they disrespect themselves), they will lose self-respect and can spiral into a destructive pattern.  Sometimes when a man loses his job, the wife will think she is helping him by supporting him, when in fact she is adopting what he perceives to be “his” role (if he invests his sexuality into his income).  In such a case, I actually agree with you that the man needs to work for his own self-esteem.  The key is to understand the guy you are with – what are the qualities in which he invests his sexuality?  And you don’t get that understanding by asking him – because he may not have the insight to know.  Just observe how he tries to impress you.  What does he show you during courting to indicate that he is valuable to you?  That will be a good clue.

    1. 6.1
      Gala

      Thank you for understanding Jeremy. This is exactly it. For sure my ex derived his sense of masculinity from his career and the money he brought to the table. I knew that it wasn’t a mystery to me. So what would you suggest the woman do in such situation? The guy used to make money but lost his job (and may be respect for himself with it even if he is. It self aware enough to know it). Hers is the only source of income. It’s not really an option for her to quit her job. They are not wealthy and they are not nearly ready to retire. What is there to do? Seems like women can’t win.

      1. 6.1.1
        Jeremy

        In such a situation, both the man and the woman can still win, as long as they keep in mind what their priorities actually are, rather than what they believe their priorities should be. I’ve seen too many cases where the man lost his job and the woman took over, suggesting that her husband do the household and child rearing duties. If the guy in question invests his sexuality into his providership, inevitably the wife will end up doing the paid and unpaid work and both will be miserable. The guy will be miserable because once providership becomes his wife’s job, it is no longer his in his mind. And he will be left without the possibility of feeling like a man – and certainly won’t feel better by doing domestic duties. The solution is tough love. Forcing the guy to look for work whether he wants to or not, whether she can support him or not, then admiring the hell out of him when he does get a job. As long as you are sure that he invests his masculinity in providership – of not, this advice will not work as well.

        1. Marika

          I think this is helpful advice, Jeremy. Can I ask specifically what she was meant to do, though? I’m sure Gala did encourage her husband get a job, but obviously you can’t make a person do anything.

          I’ve had friends who decided the wife should work and the husband should be a stay-at-home Dad, as it made sense fiscally. Some guys are okay with it, but I recall one guy who became depressed, hated that role (although he didn’t say so, but it was obvious) and started drinking. His wife even encouraged him to go out with her mother’s group, which she thought would be helpful, but of course added insult to injury. To her credit, she was clueless as to what to do, and couldn’t get her head around why he was suddenly drinking and distant and unhappy. When they had both agreed on the arrangement.

          So I understand you need to be aware of what’s important to your partner and how they gain self esteem. But logistically, in Gala’s situation, if she’s working and he isn’t, and money’s getting tight, hiring a babysitter (for instance), could lead to even more arguments. Obviously in a good relationship, you talk it through, but when things deteriorate, how do you fix things, while being both sensitive to the needs of the other person and getting the logistics taken care of? That’s what’s missing in this discussion, IMO, with all the blame flying around.

        2. Gala

          I agree. That is exactly my conclusion, said differently. Men need tough love, and when a woman in such situation takes on his responsibilities, not only does it not allow him to be a man, it also robs her of the ability to be a woman. However, while nice in theory, executing on such tough love is harder in practice. What do you do when your finances are already merged? Refuse to pay the mortgage? Redirect your paycheck to your own account and go on strike? Risk ruining your credit? Demand that he leaves the house? Move out to live with your parents? I have not found an effective way to execute on it. When times were tough when I was growing up, my dad didn’t need any tough love from my mom. He’d just work, take any job he could find, even as a part time superintendent, whatever he could do. I want a guy like that! Self propelling guy so to speak. Not someone I need to threaten to through out of the house if he doesn’t get his act togeher

      2. 6.1.2
        Jeremy

        It’s tragic – sometimes people with the best intentions sabotage their relationships by doing what they believe should help. I’ve been guilty of this.

         

        If what ‘should’ work fails, there are 2 possibilities : that what we believe should be true is not, or that there is something wrong with the world. To many people choose to believe the latter.

        1. Clare

          You know, funnily enough, even though I vehemently disagree with the conclusions Gala has drawn here, I kind of understand her frustration. I understand your point too, Jeremy.

           

          The thing is, when you go into a marriage, or a serious, committed, loving relationship, you promise to be there for your partner through good times and bad. It is a very tough pill for a woman to swallow to be told that, because you are keeping the relationship afloat financially, you are sabotaging your own relationship. You say tough love – he must find a job, or what? You’ll stop paying the bills? You’ll let the electricity get cut off and be kicked out of your home? You’ll divorce him?

           

          I acknowledge this is a tough one. Because I don’t want to deal with situations like these is precisely the reason I seek out successful, and most importantly, financially responsible men, the ones who don’t have to be told to get a freaking job or else.

        2. Jeremy

          Smart.  But you gotta understand why the guy is fiscally responsible.  Is it because he is intent on a certain lifestyle or is it because it demonstrates to himself and others that he is a man?  No judgment – after much introspection, I realize I’m probably in the latter category myself, to some extent.  And if a guy is in the latter category, his responsibility can be destroyed by removing the masculinity of it.

        3. Gala

          Clare, we all seek out successfull and financially responsible men! Nobody seeks out to marry a deadbeat. But you never know how a person is going to react in such situation as prolonged unemployment until he is in it. There’s simply no way to guarantee that an employed man you marry will not deteriorate like that. I thought long and hard about it. Were there signs that I missed? Nope. There weren’t.

          Personally, I think the only thing to do if this becomes an issue is to threaten separation,  and be in a position to execute on it with minimal damage to yourself. Back when I was married, I was essentially trapped in a corner. It wasn’t an option to quit my job or default on rent. I also had nowhere to go but my parents small apartment. Divorce became the only option but for a long time I was simply in completely untendable situation. I had to work, pay (or find myself on the street), clean (or live in a pigsty) and be yelled at for doing all of that, to boot. This is marriage. You are joint at the hip and if one partner “defaults” on their obligation there’s nothing you can do, other than go down with him or carry him or shake him off. These are your only options.

          I also have this other girlfriend and she’s the smart one. In her 3rd marriage (after her 2nd ended much like mine), she never commingled any assets with her husband. They are not even cosigners on the mortgage (she paid her half in cash and they split the ownership, so if he defaults it will get foreclosed but only his credit is affected) and her husband pretty much understands that he HAS to make money, and there’s no way for him to schmooz off of her. And he does.

  7. 7
    Jeremy

    Gala, Marika and Clare – I can’t over-generalize, nor can I speak to Gala’s situation, not being privy to the details.  But instead, I’ll give an example from my own family:

     

    My sister married a man who co-owned a printing franchise with his brother and uncle, and for many years they made a good living.  He was the primary breadwinner for their family, though my sister worked as well.  But about 10 years ago he made a bad business decision and lost his business, and became very depressed, losing all his confidence and self-esteem.  My sister desperately wanted to help him so she did what she thought was best – she told him to take as much time to find himself as he needed, and she would make the money in the meantime.  Flash forward 10 years and the only thing that has changed is that the situation has become more entrenched with her working and him doing not much of anything.  She makes the money to pay the bills, and she does most of the household and child rearing duties to feel like a woman and help him feel like a man.  So what does he do?  He feels insecure and overcompensates by being negative about everything.  At this point, neither of them feels there is a way to change.

     

    What *should* my sister have done?  I’d say give him a few months and then tell him he needs to find a job – any job, even working for Home Depot for minimum wage for a while.  And if he couldn’t or wouldn’t, try to pull some strings for him with any connections she might have.  And if he still wouldn’t do it, then she has a tough choice about what she wants to do – to try to force his hand by suggesting a separation, or to accept the situation (which will depend on how bad it is from both of their perspectives, and whether or not he is trying).

     

    Many couples can and do make it work where the woman is the primary breadwinner, but if the man is miserable in the situation, he needs to be brought out of it.  Gala told the story of the 2 men who, after their divorces, became productive and employed again.  It isn’t necessarily because they *had to*, but rather maybe because once they were no longer with women who were out-doing them at being men, they could once again try their hand at masculinity (in their minds).

    1. 7.1
      Mrs Happy

      Jeremy,

      I agree with you there are all sorts of psychological reasons that these men Gala describes functioned better once separated.  But I absolutely believe that a big initial driver was, suddenly no-one else was paying for their housing, bills, car and food, so they did “have to”.  Necessity is the mother of invention, as the proverb says.

      In my opinion your sister should stop doing the housework and let her husband do it. Whether it makes him feel bad or not, it’s 30 hours a week of work that needs doing, and to not do it and leave it all for the full time worker, when he is at home all day, is lazy and nasty. We can’t all feel luxuriously masculine and feminine with every act we do all the time in the real world.

      1. 7.1.1
        Marika

        Agreed Mrs Happy. Jeremy, your sister appears to be trying to meet her husband’s needs while completely sacrificing her own needs in the process. That’s not a relationship. How can he both not work and not help out around the house for 10 years? And how is that making her feel?

        That’s also my concern with many of the previous comments to Gala. There was a lot of commentary on what she potentially did wrong, but her ex-husband is an adult. He didn’t choose to lose his job, but he did choose to do drugs and check out of his duties as a husband and adult. That’s not her fault. Being supportive is wonderful, being a martyr isn’t.

    2. 7.2
      Kenley

      Jeremy,

      In the example you have shared, I don’t think getting any ol’ job would do. He was used to being the man in charge — not some a minimum wage worker with very little power or agency.   I bet the problem was that he couldn’t find a job that he felt was worthy of his talents.   Still, I don’t understand why he gave up.  Why do they need to be nagged by their wives to be providers if they in fact derive their sense of self from being providers?  What is the difference between the man who will get 2 even 3 jobs to support his family versus the man who if he can’t get that specific high paying job he wants, he just won’t work at all.   It doesn’t seem like the latter guy is really driven by being a provider.

      1. 7.2.1
        Jeremy

        The difference, IMHO, is what happens to the man’s psychology when the woman steps in as breadwinner.  The guy who works 2-3 jobs to support his family does so because he has to – no one else is paying the bills.  But if his wife steps in to pay the bills, suddenly paying the bills is now HER job.  So what’s his job?  More importantly, what’s his ROLE?  If the only role he can find is not one he considers the role of a “man” (in his mind), he often sinks into depression.  It’s not that he is driven to be a provider, but rather he is driven to be seen as a “man.”

        And yes, a lot of this also has to do with the individual’s psychology and upbringing.

    3. 7.3
      Clare

      Jeremy,

       

      I take the points that you and Gala are making, and I still think it’s possible to see the signs with such men early on.

       

      The men I have known who truly derive their sense of worth and masculinity from their work would never, and I do mean never, allow themselves to stay at home and mope, sit on their asses, or allow their wives to support them. Never. Look, I live in a tough economy, this is Africa, and people just know here that you have to do anything to get an advantage, otherwise you are most likely going to find yourself in a compromised situation financially. There’s no social security or nanny state to look after you. The men I’ve known who were truly successful and financially driven know this, and they devote lots of time and energy and ambition into making their livelihoods secure. Their job is not the only thing standing between them and destitution. They have backup plans a, b, and c. I’m not exaggerating. I’m sorry if this triggers you, but that’s the way I see it. These men simply would not rely on their wives for financial support. I often found these men a bit too ambitious, but then I realized that it’s actually their way of providing for the long-term future of themselves and their families.

       

      The men whom I’ve known who have wound up in compromised situations financially were often the men who were resting on their laurels in some way, if you ask me. They had either been at the same company for years and got comfortable in their job, relied too much on a passive income from a business, or just kind of always expected that someone else in their lives, whether it be parents, family or a partner, would pick up the slack if they couldn’t bring their end completely. These are the guys who are not quite as unhappy as they should be when they lose their job. Sure, they’re “depressed,” but a part of them enjoys the misery – being able to drink and get up late, not having to take as much responsibility.

       

      To take an example from my own life: my stepfather was a bit like this. He had a successful business for years, but had absolutely no back-up plan. No savings. No degree. No other skills. And when his business went belly-up with the economic crash, he’s just been frantically trying to play catch-up. He’s in debt, can’t pay his bills, has been drifting from one job to another, not making much money. He’s trying, but that killer instinct is not there. My mom has tried tough love, but ultimately he knows that he can rely on her hard work ethic to pull them through.

       

      Some might say my mom could never have seen this coming, but I think the signs were there in his attitude from the beginning. He was one of those men who just always assumed his life would turn out ok – he had no goals and no backup plan.

       

      I stick by my original assertion. A man who truly gains his sense of self-worth and masculinity from his work and being a provider will not need a woman to tell him what he needs to do. He will not need a woman to pull him out of a bad situation and show him tough love. He will devote most of his being to making himself a success by whatever means necessary. You can see these qualities early on. I’m sorry if this triggers you, but that’s just how I see it. As a someone with a survivor instinct myself, I can easily see it in others. I can also see the ones who will probably throw in the towel when the going gets tough.

      1. 7.3.1
        Jeremy

        So, I mostly agree with this Clare.  My brother-in-law, for example, never finished university, never had a back-up plan if his business failed because he never thought it would.  So in this respect he fits into your description.

         

        BUT….I don’t think the distinction between the man who would sink into despondency and the man who would not lies in how much they value providership.  My brother-in-law always valued providership – he derived his entire self-worth by it, which is why when he failed at it, it so destroyed his self-worth.  My sister would NEVER have figured him for a man who would sit on his ass for 10 years.  The difference is not in how much the guy values providership, it’s in the guy’s mental flexibility.  How adaptable is he?  How willing to do whatever it takes?  And the same question applies, IMHO, to his dad potential – how willing is he to change diapers and wake up in the night?  How willing is he to do a job when it does NOT revolve around his sense of masculinity?

  8. 8
    Jeremy

    Mrs Happy, I’ve got all sorts of opinions about what my sister ‘should’ do. I even expressed some of them to her years ago, and then again more recently when she came down with cancer and he still would not get a job to support their family so I had to.  The situation is a mess. And it begins with a loss of ability to perceive self esteem beyond what we believe our roles should be. When our roles elude us, I think it is better for many of us (especially men) to try to get them back rather than try to find new roles.

  9. 9
    Noquay

    Getting back to the issue of trust, I agree that one should trust until there is reason not to at which point it’s game over. I’ve been cheated on twice, the last time being six months ago. In both cases it was devastating; still grieving over the last incident. A lot of self doubt, hating on self for being too multi racial, not wealthy enough, not standard fare enough, being geographically undesirable. In both cases the men had legitimate reasons for traveling, not being around a lot so although I felt uneasy, I couldn’t prove they were cheating and I refuse to spy on phones etc. One was local, one from out of town. Due to a complete lack of a local dating pool, as long as I remain here long distance is my only option. I am in the process of seeking out more progressive communities, a job in a non toxic environment. Despite my being hurt badly, I treat any new man in my life with trust from the get go yet listen to my gut. Someone else’s poor character isn’t a new mans fault. The main issue is that people do take time to unfold and when they unfold into something ugly, you bail.  Yes, you’ve wasted  time but that is unavoidable in dating. The situation presented by Gala sadly is a common one; some folk, in a situation they’re unhappy with, go into full on failure mode rather than being proactive and leaving. See this in both men and women. Not condoning it but it does happen and when folk do this, you have to bail and bail quickly. No one can force another to straighten up and fly right.

  10. 10
    Gala

    Jeremy:

    Your brother in law sounds like a real piece of work. That said, I am absolutely positive that if he found himself cut off from financial support provided by his wife (or you), he would have found a job in short order. Like they all do. Personally, I don’t think men like these deserve any understanding or empathy (not that you said otherwise..) We all have mental hang ups, but at some point you just gotta shove your hurt feelings roll up the sleeves and work…

    What is disturbing to me, this falling apart tendencies in men seem to transcend ethnicity, background, socio-economic status, education level and generations. If I could figure out the way to weed these out with some simple test I’d be very happy (and probably rich, too!)

  11. 11
    Jeremy

    Gala, I was thinking about this issue.  It’s funny, marriage used to be basically a transaction of male provisioning for women’s sexuality/reproduction.  And although these days both men and women marry for a whole host of reasons beyond this transaction, the transaction remains part of our consciousness.  Men marry and worry that their wife will suddenly stop wanting to have sex, leaving men with the choice of being miserable or undergoing the trauma of divorce.  Women marry and worry that their husband will suddenly stop wanting to provide, leaving women with the choice of being miserable or undergoing the trauma of divorce.  And both genders ask the question, “how can I be sure, before I marry, that my partner won’t do this?”

     

    There are strategies (and I’ve discussed some of my strategies elsewhere from the male perspective – haven’t though as much about the female one), but they are not infallible.  You really can’t know for sure.  But here’s one thing that I think is really important.  Rather than concentrating on what your spouse believes, concentrate on letting your spouse know what matters to YOU.

     

    Here’s what I mean by that: If you are a man to whom sex is important, make sure to tell your wife how much sex matters to you.  There is so much messaging in society (and among older females) that it is natural for sex to fade once kids are born that many women just internalize this message and expect their husband to be ok with it.  Such wives need to KNOW that their husbands value sex and that if their sex life fades, it will deprive their marriage of the oxygen it needs to go on.  In the same way, if it is important to a woman that her man provide, she needs to tell him that.  Not pretend that she is ok with being the provider.  Society is full of messages that women don’t need men, that providership is no longer masculine, and some men  internalize that message.  The woman needs to make it unambiguous what she wants and needs.

     

    I’m sure you did that, Gala, but my sister didn’t.  So much of what happened in their relationship was because of the messages SHE gave him about what was ok and what wasn’t.  What she DIDN’T expect from him (when she really did).

    1. 11.1
      Nissa

      You know, I’ve heard this ‘sex fizzles’ stuff so many times, but I never found it to be true. Not in any of my relationships and not in my 14 year marriage. Perhaps it was because I never had kids, but my sex drive was pretty much the same throughout my marriage. My sister on the other hand, would have been happy to never have sex again. Why the divergence? I have no idea, but for me I’ve never had sex so bad it killed my drive. I don’t think it’s from social messaging, either way. I think when both genders gain weight (as most do), it increases estrogen and decreases testosterone. I imagine that hormonal mix might kill desire. Having kids would only speed up that process.

      1. 11.1.1
        Jeremy

        I think that too many people blame hormonal changes when in fact the problem is a loss of sexual meta-goal.  The person who loses all interest with one partner might still have lucid dreams from a romance novel or high desire with another partner.  It’s not that the person doesn’t want sex, it’s just that they don’t perceive anything to be “in it” for them with their partner.  You ask “why the divergence?”  Because some people don’t lose their meta-goal while others do.

        1. Emily, the original

          Jeremy, 

          The person who loses all interest with one partner might still have lucid dreams from a romance novel or high desire with another partner.

          I was just going to ask about this. Here’s a question that I don’t mean in a snarky way, but how do you keep wanting something, year after year, when it’s right next to you every night? (I don’t mean one or two years into a marriage. I mean decades.)

        2. Jeremy

          Well that’s the crux of what Esther Perel discusses, right?  And while her stuff resonates deeply with a lot of people, it doesn’t for many others.  I think it pertains to personality types, as you and I discussed on that other thread.

           

          I’ve never needed to re-kindle my interest in my wife.  Maybe because she’s pretty hot?  🙂  I remember one thread where Tom 10 hypothesized that my index finger must be longer than my ring finger because based on my writing, he thought my fetal testosterone levels were low because I don’t have a strong desire to screw many different women.  He was wrong, though.  My ring finger is longer, and my sex drive is high.  But my novelty drive isn’t.  Testosterone and dopamine, not the same…

           

          Marriage isn’t for everyone.  I think that’s a really important thing to note, because societal messaging is that it is.  People with a strong drive for novelty are not best served by an institution whose main goal is to restrict novelty.

        3. Emily, the original

          Jeremy,

          I think it’s hard enough to find someone with whom you share mutual chemistry and compatibility and then, on top of that, be expected to maintain a close sexual and emotional connection until one of you leaves this planet. That’s a tall order.  You could be “all in” in the beginning, but, years later, as Gala’s story demonstrates, lose a job and fall into a depression. Maybe when you finally climb out of it, you’re a different person and what you want has changed.

        4. Jeremy

          Emily I think that, in the end of all things, we all just want to be happy in our lives.  But there’s often a huge disconnect between what will actually make us happy versus what we BELIEVE will make us happy.

           

          My wife’s father, for example, was a lawyer who hated practicing law, was a family man who hated responsibility, was a married man who did not much like his wife.  In his forties he had a total mid-life meltdown, had an affair, disappeared for months leaving his family without a husband/father and in debt.  He divorced my wife’s mother, stopped practicing law and returned his degree to his university as a protest, and has been remarried and divorced twice more since then.  He spends his days trying to write books and build affordable housing for the poor to try to make a difference in the world, but so far no one has given him the appreciation he craves. He has lost the respect of his former family and friends and believes that if only he can make enough of a difference in the world, others will come to see that he was right all along.  He is desperately looking for ways to make himself happy and has failed miserably thus far.  Because, you see, he is an Idealist personality and so he craves meaning.  He believes that meaning is his pathway to happiness, and so eschews positive affect, engagement, and most importantly RELATIONSHIPS.  If only he could realize that he (like all of us) needs all 5 elements of the PERMA principle to be truly happy, maybe he could overcome his misery….but instead he focuses on meaning.

           

          The reason I bring this up is your comment that, Maybe when you finally climb out of [depression], you’re a different person and what you want has changed.”  I think that a person coming out of depression maybe has realized that the things he/she thought would create happiness have not done so.  Such people may come up with new theories of how to be happy, true, and they may uproot their entire lives in that attempt.  But will they work?  Are they well thought-out?  And will the destruction of the former life lead to greater or less happiness?  The answer will vary by person and situation, but too many people over-value their predictions of what will make their future selves happy.  When it comes to making changes in our lives to pursue happiness, sometimes the scalpel is better than the bonfire.

           

           

        5. Nissa

          It’s hard for me wrap my mind around that one. How can one not perceive something to be ‘in it’ with sex? Isn’t getting off reward in and of itself? The only time I ever didn’t want sex was when I was angry with my ex, and even then, I didn’t perceive it as a permanent thing. I knew that once my anger faded, my desire would be the same as ever. My desire for him only died when I realized that he was doing behaviors that hurt me, that I told him hurt me, and he told me to my face, “I don’t care, I’m going to do it anyway”. RIP sexual interest in THAT guy, marriage over. But it didn’t cause my sexuality to dim in general. In fact I spent years trying to kill my sex drive because sharing physical intimacy with strangers created new problems.

          For me, sex isn’t about meta goals, it’s for the sheer pleasure of it. The smell of their shampoo in their hair, the salty taste of their skin, the smooth swell of a belly under my hands. The comfort of their body pressing upon mine, the release of my tension as my muscles are smoothed, the heat of our bodies warming me, the presence of a loved one soothing. Might one say that being soothed and having comfort are meta goals? I suppose, but if I wasn’t – if I was ruffled and uncomfortable – it would be my job to address those issues before having sex.

          Is it possible that my sister, whose desire died, secretly resents her husband yet doesn’t want to leave her marriage? Possible, but she indicated that she didn’t desire men in general either. This leads me to believe that she has given up on getting her needs met in general and hope that men might help her meet them specifically. To me, if I wasn’t having those things during sex, it would be much more about me than it would be about my partner. It would be about not being able to get out of one’s head and into one’s body in that moment. As an idealist and one who values meaning, I would say, life is what you make it. Meaning is what you make it. In my marriage, I was happy because I was happy, and my ex was unhappy because he was unhappy. Same marriage, completely different experience. Being happy has a lot to do with being happy with what you have, or being willing to go out of your current experience to do something else that you think you want more. It’s an internal process rather than an external one.

           

        6. Jeremy

          Nissa, such an excellent question.  You write, “for me, sex isn’t about meta-goals, it’s for the sheer pleasure.”  That there’s a meta-goal 🙂  For you, it seems, the meta-goal of sex is pleasure – and here’s the thing about that – when pleasure is the meta-goal, sex drive is unlikely to fade (except if it becomes un-pleasant).  But the amazing thing is that for many people, pleasure is not the meta-goal at all.

          Esther Perel writes about counselling couples where she has suggested that the low desire partner tattoo the phrase “I like sex” on their arm to remind themselves that once the sex begins, they usually enjoy it.  But for such people, the enjoyment of sex is not a motivator to actually have sex.  Amazing but true.

      2. 11.1.2
        Clare

        Nissa,

         

        I’m with you. I maintain that if two people stay more or less the same people that they were when they were initially wildly attracted to each other (same weight, same outside interests in terms of hobbies, sport, friends, same work ethic, same attention to their appearance, same personality traits) the attraction and sex drive should not fizzle too much.

         

        Novelty at the beginning of a relationship does play a role in sex drive, but that’s why it’s so important to seek out someone who has a bouquet of characteristics which you find sexy.

         

        Of course if you choose someone with whom there is low chemistry to begin with, or if one or both of you change in some way which is detrimental to attraction, you are asking for trouble. But I’ve found that as long as the man I’m with stays consistent, so does my level of sexual desire for him. This is not to say that other people are not different from me… just that sex drive does not have to fizzle out over time.

        1. Emily, the original

          Clare,

          And you’ve been wildly attracted to all the men you’ve had relationships with?

          I’ve spent time with 3 men I felt that way about but not one of them went the distance in terms of an actual long-term relationship. Often, to get the whole package, so to speak, compromise is necessary.

        2. Clare

          Emily,

           

          No, fair enough, I have not been wildly attracted to 100% of them.

           

          But those whom I have, the sex stayed good throughout. Of course, I have not been married for 20, 30 years, so what do I know.

        3. Emily, the original

          Clare,

          No, fair enough, I have not been wildly attracted to 100% of them. But those whom I have, the sex stayed good throughout.

          That’s the problem. Sex is a small part of a relationship unless it’s bad and then it becomes a huge part of it and bleeds into everything else. Even if the sex is pretty good/decent, how do you continue to want to do it year after year knowing it’s not going to be all that great? There’s no guarantee if you really like someone that it will be good. And of course, there’s no guarantee if the sex is great the relationship will be good.

        4. Jeremy

          It’s interesting (for me) to note the contrast between what Clare and Nissa wrote, though it might seem that they are saying the same thing.  Nissa is wondering how someone can lose interest in sex when sex feels so good.  Clare is claiming that as long as a person remains attractive (in terms of appearance and personality), sex drive should not fade.  It’s amazing to me how I could have read things like this and not understood the concept of meta-goals years ago.

           

          Because it appears (and please correct me if I’m wrong) that for Nissa a big part of the meta-goal is pleasure, while for Clare it is more validation (again, could be wrong, just going by your writing).   And you are both writing that as long as your meta-goal remains, your sexual interest should remain.  What’s missing is the acknowledgment that not everyone shares that meta-goal.  If everyone’s goal was validation, the key to maintaining desire would be maintaining attractiveness.  If everyone’s goal was pleasure, pleasure would be the key.

           

          It’s not that desire HAS to fizzle, it’s that we don’t always understand our desire and why it fizzles when it does.  Because instead of understanding what sparks our desire, we focus on what we believe SHOULD spark it.

    2. 11.2
      GoWiththeFlow

      Jeremy (and Gala, Clare, Kenley, Mrs. Happy, & Marika),

      What an interesting thread!  Thank you all for sharing your thoughts and experiences.

      I’ve experienced or seen multiple versions of this scenario play out.  Some where the husband hops to it and gets another job, any job after losing one.  Some where they transition into home and child care.  Two who transitioned into new fields when unable to gain employment in shrinking job sectors.  And one who, twice, in three years, lost a job, would not take offers he considered beneath him, and then who nudged his wife, who had been the breadwinner during his two extended bouts of unemployment, out the door a few months after the family relocated cross country for his new position.

      Nobody ever gets married, or moves in together, really expecting that “for worse” stuff to happen.  But it does, and the people themselves sometimes would not have been able to predict how they react and behave.  So I think it’s unrealistic for their partners to have a 100% ability to predict how things would play out once the bad times hit.  I think, as Jeremy said, all you can do is lay out what your expectations are at the beginning, and to pay attention to a potential spouse’s disposition.  Someone who makes lemonade when handed lemons?  Someone who is flexible and adaptable, and has at least a Plan B would be important things to suss out.

    3. 11.3
      AdaGrace

      I have never been in a relationship where the guy’s libido was even close to as high as mine, *especially* the one who was just as fit at 37 as he was at 24.

      My highest priorities in selecting a guy include resourcefulness and flexibility as far as gender roles go.  (it’s statistically improbable that a partner will make more than I do, or have significant achievements in both a STEM AND an artistic field (both male-dominated) the way I do.  If he derives his sense of masculinity or self-worth from his achievements, he will come to resent me.

      (Having experienced a few unpleasant rounds of this pattern, I decided to start start paying more attention to what made me feel good about myself that *didn’t* involve external validation in the form of money, prestigious awards, or being able to take on a breadwinner role.  I enjoy the hell out of these things, but they are not ME, they are something I enjoy doing or receiving.  If I perceive that a guy depends too much on external validation, I don’t want him in a partner, because who will he perceive himself to be if those external sources vanish in a crisis?)

      Re: unemployment and a guy being “too manly” and lacking in survival/partnership skills to switch away from his preferred role in a crisis like an actual adult:

      I was raised by parents who each do what they’re best at and are available to do.  My dad is more inclined toward thing thast involve sustained effort and order and don’t trigger his migraines, motion sickness, or fear of heights — like laundry, dishes, mowing the lawn, and staying in the same (physics professor) job for 30 years, until retirement.  He came home rather than staying in his university office to grade papers, do course planning (and play with us).

      My mom does things that require intense bursts of energy, adrenaline, and creativity, like driving, getting on ladders to do yard work, directing contractors and landscapers, figuring out how to fix things, thinking of ALL of the interesting things my parents do together, and any cooking that requires some degree of improvisation.  She played chess with me as a kid because she was far better than my dad at that.  The time my dad spent at home gave my mom the chance to go out and do short bursts of volunteer work, or at one point, go get a creative/management job until her boss’s harassment got to be too much for her to deal with.

      BUT, they were also perfectly capable of taking over the tasks they weren’t “best” at, during dad’s two sabbaticals and valve replacement, or my mom’s masectomy and knee surgeries, each one of them perfectly willing to do the tasks usually done by the other, even if less capable of doing a good job at those things.  If they don’t know how to do something, they *figure out* how to do it.  My dad is of the firm opinion that she’s a lot smarter and more resourceful than he is (probably true) and is not one bit threatened by that… my mom will buy cards from a store for his birthday; he makes her cards with badly drawn animals on them and calls her by an adorable pet name.  That’s the way it’s been for the past 54 years.

      At one point I realized that I have learned to select men who aren’t all that attached to gender roles — probably related to “can function without external validation.”  For exampe:

      I had a partner with treatment-resistant major depressive disorder and the onset of slight memory issues:  After we’d been together for years, he lost his high-paying STEM job due to a slightly blunted intellect and loss of motivation.  However, he wasn’t averse to getting a menial job he could still do, and picking up more household chores, while the medical folks tried to figure out what was going on.  It’s not that he wasn’t bothered by this, or that it wasn’t a struggle for him, but I think he was able to do it because he still felt like there was still a “him” without the high-paying job who could participate as part of the partnership.  We’re not together anymore for other reasons,  but the immense respect I have for him, is the reason I continued to support him through the crisis even after the relationship ended: he wasn’t so wrapped up in his masculine ego be a good partner or, subsequently, a good housemate.  Maybe “resilience” is a good term here as well?

      (I’m wandering a bit, and it feels as if this reply would have been just as appropriate, if not more so, for the gender stereotypes post, so…)

      One of the less stereotypically masculine things my father did was to play a more active role in my childhood than I think most dads do — he preferred to do his grading and course prep work at home, as it suited his introverted nature better and allowed him to spend more time with my brothers and me.  He very rarely expressed anger; I saw him as gentler and more nurturing than my mom, who has a hair-trigger and often unpredictable temper.

      I think that my dad’s steady nature has a lot to do with why I like most men and trust them if given no reason to feel otherwise.  (watching my especially sensitive brothers grow up confronted by society’s crushing expectations of “masculinity” probably had a lot to do with that too.)  A lot of women don’t get much in-depth exposure to good men at an early age the way I did, so it’s probably harder for many of y’all to maintain a positive impression once you’ve encounter a few not-so-good ones.  🙁

      Sorry for length/disjointedness/possible typos, I’ve been intermittently typing a few sentences at a time all day while working.

      (Evan: changing the username I’ve posted under once or twice because I may reply, citing my unusual work and life circumstances, to your gender stereotypes post.  My given name, combined with a few details relevant to my points, are likely unique… don’t know whether any of my coworkers read your blog.  I’ll stick with this username in the future.)

    4. 11.4
      Emily, the original

      Jeremy,
      My wife’s father, for example, was a lawyer who hated practicing law … In his forties he had a total mid-life meltdown, had an affair, disappeared for months leaving his family without a husband/father and in debt.  He divorced my wife’s mother, stopped practicing law and returned his degree to his university as a protest, and has been remarried and divorced twice more since then.  He spends his days trying to write books and build affordable housing for the poor to try to make a difference in the world,
      I certainly don’t advocate someone not taking care of his children but just reading about the hours that most lawyers put in weekly makes that profession sound dreadful. He probably felt like he was in a cage. If you don’t mind me saying this, something in your story is off. I am a journalism student — did much the same as your father-in-law and chucked a former life for a new one, although I’m only in school for one semester; it’s to update my skills, not start another degree program. I covered a town council meeting last week. This town has an affordable housing committee. Most towns are desperate for residents to fill committees. Your farther-on-law could have gotten civically involved, met some of the people at the businesses that were proposing affordable housing developments, made contacts, etc. I have often found that people who fail at something (provided it doesn’t require a natural talent like singing or have an improbably high failure rate like acting) aren’t focused enough or haven’t looked into all the avenues. How badly does he want it?

      I think that a person coming out of depression maybe has realized that the things he/she thought would create happiness have not done so.  Such people may come up with new theories of how to be happy, true, and they may uproot their entire lives in that attempt.  But will they work?  Are they well thought-out?  And will the destruction of the former life lead to greater or less happiness? 
      It’s hard to say. I’m not in blissful nirvana after leaving a job I hated, but I am now in a better place than I was before. I don’t expect a job to give my life meaning. I just don’t want to hate every minute of it. For some people, a job will provide meaning. For others, they need to look into a side hustle. For some, relationships will provide meaning. That can be tricky, though, because you’re reliant on other people — in a job in terms of them choosing you, in a relationship.
      When it comes to making changes in our lives to pursue happiness, sometimes the scalpel is better than the bonfire.
      That depends on the person. For someone who likes stability, jumping into the bonfire is a bad idea. I’ve had a lot of anxiety about leaving a job and not having something else lined up but … sometimes you have to take the leap.

      1. 11.4.1
        Jeremy

        He has been successful at building affordable housing.  He hasn’t been successful at finding happiness, in spite of his thinking that being successful at building affordable housing would bring happiness.  I’m not saying that a bonfire is never necessary but most of us, when unhappy, tend to focus on what we don’t have.  We don’t often focus on what we do have, that we’d be losing with that bonfire.  Speaking generally, of course, not for your specific case.

        1. Emily, the original

          Jeremy,

          I’m not saying that a bonfire is never necessary but most of us, when unhappy, tend to focus on what we don’t have. 

          Unless you don’t want what you have.

          My previous job was with an employer some of my coworkers had been with for 30 years. All they did was complain about the job, but they were still there, so apparently they didn’t want to leave that badly. Making a life change is scary because you don’t know if things will be better on the other side. But a lot of people choose to live in a state of limbo. Too good to leave, too bad to stay.

      2. 11.4.2
        Jeremy

        Oh, and relationships don’t provide meaning.  They provide relationships.  One might focus on the meaning aspect of relationships (if one were inclined to prioritize meaning), but it’s not all about meaning.  Can’t be all about meaning.

        1. Emily, the original

          Jeremy,

          One might focus on the meaning aspect of relationships (if one were inclined to prioritize meaning), but it’s not all about meaning.  

          If they’re not about meaning, what are they about? Keep in mind that there are a of women who don’t want kids and can support themselves.

        2. Jeremy

          They are about relationships.  Relationships, in and of themselves, provide a sense of pleasure to our remembering selves.  And although we often do derive a sense of meaning from our relationships (as we might derive meaning from achievement, engagement, and even pleasure), the value of the relationship is distinct from the meaning aspect.

           

          Again, to the Idealist personality-type who is inclined to prioritize meaning, it might seem that the value of all the other aspects of the PERMA principle (positive affect, engagement, relationships, meaning and achievement) is about meaning.  But it isn’t.  Just as, to the Explorer personality-type who is inclined to prioritize positive affect, the value of the other aspects of PERMA might seem to lie in their pleasurability.  But we need to see each aspect as distinct and not focus on the one or two aspects that our personality tends to focus on.

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