We All Have Our Moments When We Are The 'Shitty Partner' In The Marriage

by Christine Burke
Originally Published: 
Dusan Petkovic / Shutterstock

A few weeks ago, I read an article that stopped me in my tracks. Frankly, it’s not often that I read a piece by another blogger that not only makes me put my phone down and ponder its message, but also want to immediately discuss it with my friends.

In his article, “Dear Shitty Husbands, This Is Your Wake Up Call,” author Matthew Fray makes the assertion that even if husbands think they are doing a good job by their wives, they are still assholes and doing a shitty job.

Yes, he flat-out tells men that even if they are providing for their families, being attentive to their wives in the bedroom, helping around the house, and being a generally decent guy to their families, that’s not enough to feel secure in their relationships. He goes on to say that he came to this epiphany when his wife of nine years announced last year that she was leaving him.

He says that the moment that she took her ring off and told him she was finished being married to him was the moment he realized he was a shitty husband.

And through his post, he wanted to save other men from the same mistakes he made over the course of his marriage.

His biggest transgression? Leaving his wife to feel alone in their marriage.

He says that time and again, he chose his selfish needs over his wife’s need to feel close to him. He details one particular incident that he calls his “defining marital moment,” and it was one he didn’t know would irrevocably change the course of their marriage. Basically, he decided to watch the last round of the Masters golf tournament rather than spend the day outside with his family. He says that he had no way of knowing how disconnected his wife felt and that he can trace her slowly evolving decision to leave him back to that day.

Some people commented that he had every right to watch a golf tournament.

Others commented that his wife had every right to be pissed and that they could understand why she’d leave such a selfish pig.

Love it or hate it, agree or disagree, people had a strong reaction to this post when I shared it on my Facebook page.

And no surprise, the comments were the most eye-opening part.

When I shared this post, hundreds of people, mostly women, commented about how alone they feel every day in their marriages — story after story from women who had left men for similar reasons and women who lamented that they were unhappy in their relationships. In heartbreaking paragraphs, women would write about the pain they felt at consistently being left behind for hobbies, business trips, and other self-centered activities.

Mostly, the resounding theme was that communication is lacking in many (most?) marriages.

As one would expect, men also commented. They expressed frustration about women who aren’t forthcoming with their true feelings, confusion about what their roles are supposed to be when married to women who “do it all,” and anger that another man had written a post basically bashing husbands.

I was surprised that I received pushback from my male friends when I commented that the piece had personally moved me. I was told that I was supporting and promoting “husband bashing” and that I had disappointed a few friends because I dared to agree that, in some marriages, there’s often a partner who feels alone.

The fact is, though, I do agree with that sentiment, and when I read the article, I didn’t see my husband as the shitty one.

I saw myself.

My husband and I have struggled in our marriage in the last year, and we’ve both had to “sit in our shit” when it comes to who has been at fault for our issues. I’ve had to face the fact that, sometimes, I’m the one who sucks at being married and there are times my husband feels alone and neglected when I choose my job, kids, friends, or other activities over spending time with him.

And of course, I’ve felt that way too. But that isn’t a license to justify our disconnect by laying the blame solely at his feet. Communication is a two-way street, after all. It takes two to tango.

At one point or another in any marriage, one partner is going to do a shitty job. Whether it’s having to focus on a job task or being overextended with school activities, every relationship goes through a period where a partner feels neglected or cast aside. And when you’ve been married long enough, sometimes, you are able to weather that storm because you know that a long-term relationship means that the tides ebb and flow. You have confidence that you can work through it and turn it back around.

The takeaway from Fray’s article is not that all husbands everywhere are shitty partners who should be left behind. Quite the contrary. What he’s saying is that relationships take effort, time, and work.

Compromise and communication are key, and when communication breaks down, marriages often get rocky. His assertion that he was an asshole should not be considered offensive. Those are his feelings, and they are valid. His declaration is absolutely a wake-up call to anyone who feels that their relationship isn’t what it should be.

We can take ownership and make a positive change because the lines of communication can often be dusted off, repaired, and opened up again. It takes work and sometimes might require a trip to a therapist to get back on track, but his point is that talking to your spouse is never a bad thing. Choosing to spend time with your partner will always result in a “we moment” that will help you through the rough patches. Without communication, any marriage or relationship is doomed.

So, when you are a shitty partner, take ownership and work toward making amends. Talk to your partner. Tell your husband what you want. Ask your wife what she needs. You’ll be surprised at how much of a difference these simple changes can make.

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