June 14, 2022

The Little Things That Can Destroy Your Relationship with Matthew Fray

The Little Things That Can Destroy Your Relationship with Matthew Fray

In this episode, relationship coach Matthew Frey shares the lessons he learned from his failed marriage and divorce to help others avoid making the same mistakes. He talks about the importance of being aware of the little things that can erode trust...

In this episode, relationship coach Matthew Fray shares the lessons he learned from his failed marriage and divorce to help others avoid making the same mistakes. He talks about the importance of being aware of the little things that can erode trust in a relationship, and how to stop them before it's too late.

You do it all the time. You leave the dishes in or buy the sink. You walk by a pile of laundry without starting a load. You leave the overflowing garbage in the can instead of just taking it out. Or maybe you're the one constantly nagging your partner to stop

Matthew Fray is a relationship coach and writer who leans on the lessons of his failed marriage and divorce to help others avoid making the same mistakes he did. He is the author of the new book, This Is How Your Marriage Ends: A Hopeful Approach to Saving Relationships.

This is Matthew Fray's story...

I was married for 12 years, and we were together for 20. My marriage ended in 2013, and it was awful. I was having a really hard time for 12 to 18 months afterward. I was like, I don't want to feel like this ever again. So I needed to start doing the work to figure out whatever I could learn to protect my future self from a repeat scenario. And the math result of that ended up being eight and a half years of blogging, which grew into a coaching business about three years ago. And then eventually I got some attention from some media. And when The New York Times did a feature on me at the beginning of the Pandemic, that's when things really started to happen. And I was given the opportunity to write this book. 

In this episode, you will learn the following:

1. The seemingly small annoyances in our relationships that may be more than a little irritating, and may be signs of deeper issues that could lead to the end of your marriage. 

2. Good people can accidentally do things that harm their relationships without realizing it.

3. The ways that we unintentionally damage our relationships by doing things in our blind spots that we're not even aware of.

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Matthew Fray Transcript

[00:00:00] Jeremy: do it all The time. You leave the dishes in or by the sink. You walk by a pile of laundry without starting a load.

[00:00:06] You leave the overflowing garbage in the can instead of just taking it. Or maybe you're the one constantly nagging your partner to stop doing those things and help out.

[00:00:15] Zach: the seemingly small annoyance, maybe more than a little irritating. And unless you take the advice our guest has for you today, they may be a sign of deeper issues in your relationship that may become the reason your marriage.

[00:00:28] Jeremy: Coming up today on the fit mess. 

[00:00:30] Matthew Fray: sometimes it has nothing to do with us personally, but we, as the romantic partner should be effective in, you're not alone in the shit thing that you're dealing with. Like they should be able to trust us to do that. I think in order for the relationship to have the requisite amount of safety and trust to go the distance

[00:00:49] Jeremy: that is Matthew fray. He is a relationship coach and a writer who leans on the lessons of his failed marriage and divorce to help others avoid making the same mistakes he did today. We'll talk with him about the lessons he shares in his new book called.

[00:01:02] This is how your marriage.

[00:01:04] ends a hopeful approach to saving relationships. But first I'm Jeremy. 

[00:01:09] Zach: and I'm Zack, we've got a bunch of coaching certifications to hang on our walls, but really we're two guys who got sick of our own shit and we made changes to have healthier, happier, more meaningful lives. each week we talked to world-class experts for advice to help you do the same

[00:01:24] Jeremy: And this episodes that comes at a challenging time in your life. 

[00:01:27] Zach: Well, it's not so challenging now as it was nearly six months ago, I think is when I first made the phone call to you that my own marriage was ending.

[00:01:38] Jeremy: That was a tough call to take. And, uh, you know, and look, we get vulnerable here. We share the struggles and the pains and all the bumps and bruises and, and all of that. This is a very personal one. So I imagine there's some lines you don't want to cross and some things that you want to withhold, but can you share a little bit about sort of how you learned that, that it was over and, and I guess, were you surprised, did. you know it was.

[00:02:04] Zach: I did. , I wasn't surprised. And it had been coming for a while and, look, my, my ex and I had been together for 20 years, which is just crazy to think that, and we were a good fit 20 years ago. We were good. 10 years ago and people grow, people change and you know what it, honestly, we're still friends.

[00:02:27] We're still good friends, but the spark really disappeared, maybe four or five years ago. So. It wasn't surprising. We have a kid together, so we really tried to make it work for her. But, , at the end of the day it was just not right for either of us. So we mutually agreed that we were going to go our separate ways and we're both okay with it.

[00:02:48] Like, you know, there there's, there's sadness and anger too, , the ending of any relationship. But you know, at the same time we, we knew it was coming and we accepted that.

[00:02:59] Jeremy: There was a mourning process for you, a grieving process that you described to me that I don't think I've ever heard anyone do in the way that you did. Like you, you literally dedicated a few days to just crying the shit out of it.

[00:03:16] So to process. Can you, I mean, are, are you okay with talking about that? I thought that was a really interesting thing that you did to sort of deal with this. 

[00:03:25] Zach: Yeah. Once, once we realized that it was over and like, it was like we made the decision that it was going to happen. Like I felt the grief coming on and I knew that I just, , I had 42 years. , training from my dad and other guys and society to, , just swallow that and not do anything about it and pretend like everything was normal.

[00:03:47] , but I decided to embrace it, all of it and feel it and just let it go. And I literally like grieved for three days, really, really hard. 

[00:03:58] Jeremy: Yeah. 

[00:03:59] Zach: was a bad three days, but like at the end of the third day, like magically, I was like, okay. And I'm done. It was,

[00:04:08] Jeremy: That's amazing, but it also sounds a little robotic. I mean, the fact that that a 20 year relationship can end you cry for three days and you're okay.

[00:04:19] Zach: I need to be clear, like I'm not fully okay. But it was. 

[00:04:23] Jeremy: course. 

[00:04:24] Zach: You know, like it, I brought the emotions in, I didn't deny them. I processed them, and that's the journey I've been on over the last, , 20 years with my own mental health is to be able to recognize my emotions, process them in a healthy way so that they don't end up burning me later.

[00:04:41] And this, was 20 years of practice of that. And it was. Three days of, of really hard grief. Like I'm not going to lie. Like I was, I was upset. 

[00:04:52] Jeremy: Yeah. 

[00:04:52] Zach: but at the end of it, I was like, okay, I let them all flow it. And the only thing I can describe it as, as you know, if you ever see two ducks get into a fight, like they fight 

[00:05:03] Jeremy: right. 

[00:05:04] Zach: really, really hard.

[00:05:05] And then they both walk away and they both have that shake that like really to like get rid of all that. 

[00:05:11] Jeremy: Yeah. 

[00:05:12] Zach: And then they, and then they're like, oh, Hey, what's up man? And they're fine. And they're fine. They're like maybe a little hungry, but, they're fine. And that's kind of what it felt like where I just, I dove in, I went to the uncomfortable spot and I felt them and I processed them and I dug into why I felt that way.

[00:05:30] Jeremy: Yeah, 

[00:05:31] Zach: And at the end of the day, it was, I feel this way because my normal is going away. 

[00:05:37] Jeremy: right, right. 

[00:05:38] Zach: . The relationship was over, the spark was gone. There was no reason to stay. Then that, that really helped me, like at the end of it, realize this is the right decision. Yes. I'm sad about it. And for certain reasons, but there's so much more to be happy about.

[00:05:53] Jeremy: Right. So it's not like you just suddenly were like, all right, I'm putting on my dancing shoes. It's day three, but it just made it a little bit easier to 

[00:06:00] Zach: Yeah. And like I say, it was, it was three days before. That's just like the moment when I was like, oh, okay. I feel like I'm done. I didn't go into it saying I'm going to do this for three days.

[00:06:12] Jeremy: myself in a closet for three days.

[00:06:13] Just water, no lights. 

[00:06:15] Zach: Yeah, no, if it was a week, it was a week. If it was two months, like it was two months. Like I just, I just committed to myself that I wasn't going to deny the feelings and try and bury them down and act like everything was.

[00:06:27] Jeremy: Yeah. That, that is a powerful lesson that, uh, you know, the more you just allow yourself to feel that stuff, the less, that it sort of hangs around and nags you for, for a long time. 

[00:06:36] Zach: I will say that, , this has probably been the most challenging 12 months of my entire life. , I don't know if we talked about it on the show, but like , last August, I quit my job without having anything lined up. 

[00:06:50] Jeremy: Yeah, 

[00:06:52] Zach: quit my marriage six months later. So like the two things in your life, like the two, 

[00:06:57] Jeremy: that you are right. the things you identify with. 

[00:07:00] Zach: biggest things I walked away from with like no plan and totally different person now than I was 12 months ago.

[00:07:08] It's amazing.

[00:07:09] Jeremy: we're going to get into the lessons, from our guests, Matthew fray, he's going to share some things that can help you avoid having a relationship come to an end like this before we do, , we sort of alluded to it at the beginning, the, the little things, the death by a thousand cuts, , the things that sort of add up over time.

[00:07:25] Did that play a part in what happened with you guys with just sort of those, those little transgressions, those little things that just over time sort of wear away at the relationship. 

[00:07:34] Zach: It did, but only I think after the spark left. 

[00:07:37] Jeremy: Okay. 

[00:07:37] Zach: In my mind, when I love someone, , whether it's a wife, a friend, you know, a sibling or whatever. When I love someone, I'm going to be annoyed by little things, but I'm going to look past them. Right? Because like the love is so much more important to me. And it's, it's so much more powerful and I'm just gonna choose not to be annoyed by those little things.

[00:07:58] Right. In my situation, once the spark was gone and we really just became roommates. Then those little things started piling up.

[00:08:06] But I think that's where, the thing that was left right next to the garbage, instead of in the garbage or right next to the sink, instead of in the sink or, you know, the clutter or something like that. That's when that stuff really started to add up and like, you know, on a Friday night when I'm tired and there's dishes next to the sink and garbage next to the garbage and their shit all over the countertop, you lose your, you lose your 

[00:08:28] Jeremy: Yeah. Yeah, for sure. All right, well, so how do you keep those things from, from weighing down a marriage or any relationship and adding that strain to it? We're going to find out from our guests in just a minute, but before we do that, we want to let you know about our brand new coaching program. We're calling it the fitness method.

[00:08:43] It's for people who hear the kinds of conversations we have here. And just wish that they had a way to get more help with the issues that we talk about. , we've been there. We wanted to make big changes in the way we lived our lives.

[00:08:53] We had each other and we created a system of small steps. We took to get where we are now. That's what this coaching is designed to help you do. We're opening this up to a small group of people who want to collaborate and help each other grow. We'd love to meet with you and find out how we can help you to finally pursue those goals that have been just out of reach for too long.

[00:09:10] You can find the link to learn more about that at our website, the fitness.com. 

[00:09:15] Zach: I know, I wish that I had a group that I could have talked to, , similar to what we're doing with the fit mass method while I was going through a lot of my changes. So, while you're thinking about joining that mastermind, let's move on to our guest. Our guest today is Matthew fray. He's a relationship coach and writer who leans on the lessons of his failed marriage and divorce to help others avoid making the same mistakes. He did. We really just started off by asking him about his own failed marriage.

[00:09:41] Matthew Fray: My marriage ended in 2013 sort of like painfully and unceremoniously and it was, I mean, it, it was awful. I was having like a really hard time For 12 to 18 months afterward. I was like, I don't want to feel like this, like ever again. So I needed to, I needed to start doing the work to figure out whatever I could learn to like protect my future self from a repeat scenario.

[00:10:11] And the math results of that ended up being an eight and a half years of blogging. Which grew into a coaching business about three years ago. And then eventually I got some attention from some media and it, when the New York times like did a feature on me at the beginning of the pandemic, , that's when things really started to happen.

[00:10:33] And I was given the opportunity to write this book. And so here we are. But basically my marriage has been ended for almost the exact same amount of time. We were married. We were together 12 years married for nine. And so it's, it's so interesting to view it through the prism of, from a timing perspective.

[00:10:50] We've now been apart almost as long as we were married. And I think that's like a really interesting sort of thing to like feel as we, as we sit here. It's, it's, it's crazy how fast.

[00:11:01] Jeremy: For sure. 12 years, obviously, marriages don't end overnight. How long did it take for you to realize, I guess how long did it feel like it was over before it was.

[00:11:12] Matthew Fray: About 18 months on the nose. We lost her father out of nowhere one night, and that was what I, what I held responsible for the end of our marriage back then. In the early days, that was sort of the trigger point. , and I spent about 18 months in the guestroom. You know, a few months later she mentioned something at dinner about being a little uncertain about me in the marriage.

[00:11:37] And instead of going to work, trying to figure out why she was.

[00:11:41] concerned about, our sustainability, I made it completely about me and pouted and said, well, if you don't know if you want to be married, then I guess I'm more committed to this than you will. And then I went and slept in the guestroom, like an asshole and kept waiting to like, have things magically get better, but that's not how it works.

[00:11:59] And then finally, you know, 18 months later she'd had enough and she was like, I'm I'm out. And then that, that I guess, I didn't think that was going to happen. I kept waiting for like the mending to take place. And I thought maybe if enough time went by, it would, it never did. She left, it hurt a lot. I had to figure out why.

[00:12:17] And then it's very slowly. I feel like I've gotten a little bit better each year at understanding how I, a lot of people accidentally do things in their blind spots that inadvertently harm their relationships, which is the premise of my work that good people accidentally harm their relationships and they don't necessarily realize it.

[00:12:38] And I find that to be a dangerous combination because I don't want good people to be like, why the hell is my marriage ending when they maybe could have done. Proactively about it, but you got to know first. I mean, you have to be aware that there's something you can do. 

[00:12:54] Zach: Yeah. So I was gonna phrase this in the form of a, a little bit of a joke, but I wanted to say, there's nothing, that I could possibly do or habits that I have that would annoy other people. Right. Nothing. Right. And there's nothing, but that's, that's not true.

[00:13:08] That's what you're talking about. Right. There's things that I'm doing. Every single day that I have just no awareness or bothering other people. Right. 

[00:13:15] Matthew Fray: Yes. And I, and I, and I think that's fine with like your social crew and with your coworkers and maybe with your family of origin. I think you can do that and have successful relationships out in the world, but that exact dynamic. Will a road trust within a committed partnership. Like. And then, and then that's the problem.

[00:13:40] And so I think a lot of us do this and we think our wives or girlfriends or romantic partners, whoever are like unfairly picking on us. Cause everybody else likes us. Everybody else. I have a great relationship with everybody else says I'm a good guy. And you're the person, the person that I sacrifice the most.

[00:13:58] Love the most promise the rest of my life too. You're the one that's going to tell me. I'm like the bad guy and I'm, you know, you're not happy with how I show up. I just was really put out by that. But I just, I just think there's a way to reverse engineer all this stuff in a really healthy way. I made everything about me and when we stop making everything about ourselves, it really helps in relationship. 

[00:14:23] Jeremy: It's interesting. You bring up the two different, well, I guess multiple kinds of relationships that we have, uh, just the other day, my wife was. Sort of joking when she said, you know, you can, you can kind of mope around the house and, and be kind of angry and mad and stuff. And then I hear you go upstairs and do your podcast and it's blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.

[00:14:43] You're you're Mr. Entertaining, and, and you know, you're on it and it's, it just, it's interesting to me how we do, even in our marriage, we, we wear different hats with different people at home. Maybe we get a little too comfortable and feel like we can, we can just be us and, and be down and whatever, but when we're in a more professional environment or with our friends, maybe we have to wear the hat that says I'm good and everything's fine.

[00:15:09] And, and maybe that's, is there a disconnect there and sort of the roles we play in those relationships, and that's why maybe our marriages are more vulnerable to collapse than those other relationships. 

[00:15:20] Matthew Fray: I think so. I think there's science behind it too. And I can't, I'm so embarrassed that I'm not savvy enough to. We call it off the top of my head, but work has been done in this regard and there's like social science and psychological below validity to the idea that we are more thoughtful with strangers, more sensitive to the needs of people that we don't spend all of our time with than we are to the people we do spend all of the time.

[00:15:48] It's not that we're necessarily unkind to the people that we live with. It's that I think we're just more mentally capable. With other people than we are with our spouses and our children and growing up with our parents and our siblings. and I wish I'm to forgive me for not like remembering like that.

[00:16:06] There's a name for it, but it's it's there. And yeah, I once wrote a blog post that was like, I was, she divorced me. I I'm sort of quote unquote famous for, she divorced me because I left dishes by the sink. I wrote another one called she divorced me because I was nicer to strangers than I was to her. And that's when I learned that recently. 

[00:16:25] so Yeah. I just think we, I think we take everything for granted that becomes white noise in our lives. I mean, everything, our, our, our parents, our breathing, our eyesight, the use of our arms and legs. So our children, to a certain extent we take for granted that they're going to be here tomorrow. And then in that comfort, sometimes we do or don't do things.

[00:16:53] Aren't optimum for the quality of our relationship. And I think all of us wish we did better, but where people in the tarred. 

[00:17:01] Zach: Yeah.

[00:17:01] definitely. I, you, you brought it up. One of the things I wanted to ask you about was that blog post of she divorced me because I left the dishes by the sink. And that, , that one kind of hit me hard because , I am very regularly taking something that was placed next to the sink, putting it in the sink, something that was put on.

[00:17:18] The counter right by the garbage and putting it in the garbage. Can you just elaborate a little more on, on that blog post and what it meant?

[00:17:27] Matthew Fray: Yes, I'm glad you pointed it out and it, so it's not always in a male, female relationship, a husband doing this to a wife. It can be anybody including my son, leaving Clif bar wrappers all over the couch this morning. , things like this happen all the time. but in, in the context of she divorced, cause I lift dishes by the sink.

[00:17:46] What I think it does is it describes the scenario in which my wife says this thing matters to me, this dish being here, I don't like it. And I disagreed that it was as important that she was making it out to me. I didn't think the dish mattered. And I thought it was cool as an adult. And that my opinion about the dish not mattering was equally valid to her opinion that the dishes and. And I want to debate the merits of the dish and what I've come to understand years later is that it was never really about that dish and that my only quote, unquote crime or sending the relationship was not just this one dish. And today what happened was I frequently in word and action demonstrated that I didn't value or respect. The things my wife experienced as bad or negative or sad or harmful or scary or whatever. I didn't do that. I didn't respect it. I, I didn't calculate for when my wife walks into the kitchen, she sees that glass there. It will be a signal. That I either knew it would upset her and I didn't care. And I put it there anyway, or I didn't even think about her at all.

[00:19:00] And I just thoughtlessly put it there without even doing the work of going through the process of how will she experience this? You can apply that to toilet seeds and bathroom, like a toothpaste spittle on the mirror and laundry on the floor of the bedroom. And in tons of shared domestic like household responsibilities where people frequently. Disrespected or frustrated by the actions or inactions of the person that they live with. And it's certainly, again, not always men in male, female relationships who are the culprits, but it often is I think it strongly correlates

[00:19:37] Jeremy: I don't want to put too fine. A point on the, uh, , labor issues in, in the home, but there I'm in a lot of Facebook groups with men and many of them who are having marriage troubles, I'll see them. Describe how. The changes they'll make to try and save the marriage. I've been doing the dishes, I've been doing the laundry.

[00:19:58] I've been taking the kids to school. I've been doing all these things and she still doesn't, , give me affection, respect me, love me, whatever the thing is that they're after. And I think that that kind of speaks to one of the concepts you talk about about radical responsibility is it's more. It's more than just doing what will please them.

[00:20:14] It's about showing up fully in the relationship, right? I mean, are they completely missing the boat by going? Here's my here's my honeydew list. And as long as I check it off, then our marriage is going to be just fine. 

[00:20:25] Matthew Fray: Yeah. I think so. I think there's two important ideas there. And the first one that I like to talk about is, I don't know if you guys remember from high school or university psychology classes, Maslow's. I have needs, but it's frequently like demonstrated in pyramid form and there's like five levels of human need.

[00:20:41] First one's basic need air food, water shelter. The second one is safety that we need. And in the idea of Maslow's pyramid, as we much satisfy the conditions of the levels of the pyramid and we like graduate to the next. And so once we graduate, once we satisfy safety, then we move up to like the esteem level belonging level.

[00:20:59] I means like family, friends, connectivity going out and doing stuff. And I think in romantic relationship terms, that means. Physical intimacy, date nights, going to parties and events together as a couple and, and having fun and doing all the things that we did when we first started dating all of this stuff that you know, these guys and like the dead marriage crave.

[00:21:21] And he hears her say, , you don't contribute and things like that. And he, he thinks he can like make up for it. Well, the problem is safety has been eroded in the recent. And no amount of like to do list things, no amount of, I think you're very pretty. I want to sleep with you. I want to do all these things gets to restore safety and trust in the relationship.

[00:21:46] And it's not even, it's not even him opting out of performing tasks. That does it, which is what I thought in my relationship. I made my wife responsible for being the manager of the tasks. So I was happy to do things that's actually not true. I still bucked and whined and wanted to watch sports center, you know, on Saturday morning instead of cleaning the house.

[00:22:06] But most, most of the time I would gladly do a thing. If she asked me to. Or begrudgingly at worst, I would do the thing. And that's not usually what our partners crave, what our partners usually crave is. I've got this and this is me evoking, average wife and mother, and my world. I've got this invisible to do. all of the things that I think about and manage their, my children's needs and their, my household needs and their often mined, romantic partners needs including my own. And I'm constantly juggling all of them. And there's all these external things. Maybe my mom has a, a test at the hospital. We're all a little bit worried about that.

[00:22:48] We're going to get results from two days from now. Maybe you have a big presentation at work on Friday. Maybe the kids have extracurricular activities, so they need special clothes washed or special lunches packed or whatever. There's all these things all the time. And usually these things fall to wives and mothers and relationships and the husbands or boyfriends, or whoever have opted out, not because of this like refusal to participate, but this sort of like comfortable obliviousness about it.

[00:23:15] And. Doing things at the last minute after years of trust, erosion have gone onto the relationship in no way, restore trust and communicate to our wives that we're going to participate effectively in like in this thing, moving forward. What hurts is the absence of participation in that the average wife and mother wants to you to know that.

[00:23:38] But she's got all this shit that she's managing, that she's carrying around and it's a lot less about the math. Like checking like the tasks off the list. And it's a lot more about this nuanced idea of I'm aware that you manage all of these things and you've been doing it alone.

[00:23:56] And I do not want you to feel like what you do and carry and contribute is invisible. I think people want to be seen, they want to know that their contributions matter. And I think the average double stressed out wife. Once the fuel is a for adult pro partner who promised the love and honor her all the days of our lives, we'll be there to help carry the heavy things and the invisible load of childcare and household management and all of the bonus things that pop up in human life.

[00:24:28] Those can get very high. , just depending on the math of each individual's lives, depending on health, depending on number of children, depending on financial security, it just, it varies So, much from couple to couple, but thematically it's always the same. It's can we be tuned in to what our partners carrying and then participate in that most of us don't I just, I didn't even pay attention to, I didn't even think about it.

[00:24:51] It wasn't on my radar at all. 

[00:24:54] Zach: You mentioned you were, in the guestroom waiting for the marriage to heal. Right. Knowing what you know now and working with clients and, , helping them through the situation, so being cognizant of, of the other side, Is important, but what would you do differently?

[00:25:12] How would you approach it? How do you suggest to people approaching making that change? Because, , like you said, , just doing the dishes or just, , starting to take, , active action and some of the chores isn't really the full solution. So what, , would you do differently and what do you advise people to do differently?

[00:25:30] Matthew Fray: Well, I don't. Please. trust that this answer applies to very specifically the question you asked, but I'll answer it by saying, this is what I talked to every client about in my coaching work, we focus on two habits and these two habits are what I would have done when my wife's said, Hey, I'm a little unsure about this marriage.

[00:25:50] I'm a little unsure about you. I'm I'm thinking about maybe like we shouldn't be married anymore. Like, this is how. I would have tried to restore trust in the relationship. And this is what I talked to clients about two habits. I like to use the word habit because I don't think these are awful men doing awful things.

[00:26:10] I don't think there's some characteristics. , that men have to like that they're, that they're deficient and they need to like become good enough. I just think a lot of guys in their blind spots fail to calculate for the way other people experience what they do or don't do what they say or don't say.

[00:26:27] And I think it shows up in two habits and the first one is validation. And so my wife would come to me and she would say, Matt, , something's wrong. And I would routinely respond to her in a way that I calculated to be disagreeing. But she experienced as in validation and validation equals trust, erosion and relationships.

[00:26:46] It's just a paper cut and it'll happen. You can make it 5, 7, 10, 15 years, and validating people all the time, but it's, it's a slow bleed. And it's really bad. I think when we do it on autopilot is the number one thing I ask people to work on. So my wife had come to me and say, Matt, this thing happened, it hurts something's wrong.

[00:27:04] And I would, the first version of invalidating, my wife would be to disagree that the thing she said happened. So my premise is your feelings are not relevant because they're based on something that isn't even real. I disagree with what you said occurred. Version one, version two, my wife had come to me.

[00:27:22] He said, Matt, something's wrong. I feel bad. This thing happened. And I heard, and I would, at this time I would agree That the thing happened, but I would disagree that her emotional reaction to it was.

[00:27:32] fair or healthy or appropriate. So this time, instead of trying to correct your brain, trying to correct.

[00:27:37] Trying to encourage her to feel about it more, how I feel about it. Problem solved. Version three is my wife had come to me and say, Matt, this thing happened. I feel bad about it this time. It's like something I did or didn't do. And I want to explain or justify or defend myself feeling as if she understands what my beliefs were.

[00:27:56] My, what my intentions were, the situation I was dealing with. She would understand that I wasn't like out together, but all three of these response plans. Invalidate the, they prioritize our mental and emotional experiences over our partner's mental and emotional experiences. And what I ultimately realized is 100% of the time my wife came to me to try to communicate something was wrong and recruit me to understand it and like help her be part of the bad thing, not existing in our marriage and moving forward.

[00:28:28] If I didn't agree with some aspect of what you. If I, if I felt as if she was putting too much responsibility on me, I would disagree, right? Like intellectually, I would disagree emotionally that our feelings are wrong, or I would simply defend myself implying that I will keep doing what I want to do independent of your inconvenient feelings about it.

[00:28:47] And I think that in a truly, it wasn't quite as gross and mean as that might've sounded just now it's just kind of the way that I remember it. but that this nasty habit. Inadvertently and validating people when we disagree with them, I think is an awful habit. And I don't know if we have time to like, talk about the prescription for that.

[00:29:07] Jeremy: Please. Yeah.

[00:29:08] I

[00:29:08] Matthew Fray: Okay. Because, well, a lot of guys are like, Matt, are you advocating, agreeing with your wife when you don't agree? Because the problem is on autopilot. I'm responding in an honest way with my wife, I don't agree with her. And I'm like, okay, I think that you might be conflating the idea of validating an agreement and I get it cause it was hard.

[00:29:26] And I did it every day until six or seven years. Also, , and I'm like consider this thought exercise. My son wakes up in the middle of the night, freaking out hysterically. Cause he's afraid of a monster under his bed. He's 13 now. So he wouldn't do this, but when he was four, he might, I run up to his room.

[00:29:44] I opened the. I find out that what's wrong, the reason he's afraid and the reason he's freaking out is because he thinks it's a monster under the bed. And on my default setting back then 10 years ago, the way I'm going to try to solve the problem is to try to sell him on the idea that he believes something that isn't. And that you shouldn't think and feel the things and do what he's doing right now, because it's based on a faulty premise to begin with. There's no monster under the bed, so you don't need to feel afraid. You don't need to cry, you know, toughen up, be my big boy, go to sleep. I don't have time for invisible monsters right now.

[00:30:18] And I. And I just would like to point out that in that scenario, I'm technically correct. There isn't a monster under the bed. So I win the battle of ideas. , I love my son. He is my favorite human on earth and I just he's my favorite. And I would never try to hurt him. Point three. I would never intentionally do a thing that would hurt my son like mindfully, but I, I would argue that the math result of showing up in this way as dad in this scenario, , he's alone in the dark, still afraid, still crying.

[00:30:47] Nothing got better. He learned that dad, if dad doesn't agree that the thing I'm dealing with is important or scary or hurtful, he implies that I'm stupid, weak, crazy. And then he abandons me literally or metaphorically to cry alone in the dark. So even if dad loves me, it hurts to try to like have dad be part of the solution to whatever I'm dealing with right now.

[00:31:09] And I think we lose trust when that's, how we show up in relationships. I think that child won't trust me. Well, open up to me will invite me to be part of his life when things are going on later in life, kids are from drugs. If he experiences bullying, if he's having problems with, a romantic partner or whatever.

[00:31:28] I think there's another way to show up for people and it doesn't involve agreeing that there's a monster under the bed. It doesn't involve agreeing that he should be feeling fear or crying right now. And it's simply, I go up there. I see that my son's afraid. He says, this is the monster under the bed. I know there's no monster under the bed, but instead of getting hung up on that detail and try to like convince him, he's silly for thinking and feeling what he's thinking and feeling I'm going to get.

[00:31:53] That my son is experiencing fear right now. So I'm going to hug the kid and I'm gonna be like, dude, I'm so sorry that like you're afraid right now. I don't think there's a monster under the bed, but I've felt fear before. And it's an awful thing. I don't want you to have to like, experience that. I'm I'm really sorry.

[00:32:07] Let's turn a light on, look under the bed. Let's make sure there's no monster. And I think the really critical idea and the one that applies most closely to our adult relationships is. When life is hard, you can always call mom. You can always call dad. We're going to show up for you. We might not be able to fix what's wrong, but you never have to feel alone while you're battling, whatever it is that you're battling.

[00:32:27] While you're dealing with whatever hardships going on in your life, we might not be able to make that go away, but we're always going to be next to you if you want us to be. And I, I think in our adult relationships, when our partners are communicating, something's wrong. I just, the math result should not be us trying to win the battle of ideas.

[00:32:46] If we honestly disagree with something intellectually or emotionally they're experiencing, I just want them to know. I give a shit that you hurt. I want to understand why, because you can trust me to participate effectively moving forward and being mindful of how this type of situation adversely affects you And I want you to know you can count on me. And again, sometimes it has nothing to do with us personally, but we, as the romantic partner should be effective in, you're not alone in the shit thing that you're dealing with. Like they should be able to trust us to do that. I think in order for the relationship to have the requisite amount of safety and trust to go the distance, my wife could not trust me to do that

[00:33:28] Jeremy: I can hear guys hearing that and going, yeah. When, when there's an external thing, th the boss at work is a jerk. Whatever the fit, but what about when the laser beams are focused right on you and you are the asshole, you did the thing wrong. How do you, how do you not just immediately throw up the shields and go bullshit?

[00:33:49] You're so wrong. And here's why. And I mean, it's just so tempting when you get attacked to just lash back out. How do you, how do you find that space? 

[00:33:57] Matthew Fray: I mean the way the, the, the mental hoops I jumped through are if I focus on whether or not there's a monster under the bed, and I try to convince him there, isn't one, I wrote trust in my relationship. I make the goal increasing trust in the relationship over winning the battle of ideas. So what I want to do is I want the math result of the conversation I'm having with my wife or whoever right now, I want the math result to be trust improves. that like our relationship grows, the sign of an amazing relationship is somebody gets the communicate something's wrong. And then the other person participates effectively and saying, if I don't understand, I want to, and you can count on me to like, be your partner and having that, you know, like crap thing not happen anymore in the future.

[00:34:46] Or at least try to the best of my ability if we're doing the second habit of my work, which we haven't got to yet, in theory, we would, we would not be in the situation that you're describing because there's one other habit we haven't talked about. And it would, it would preemptively prevent that from happening.

[00:35:01] But in an ideal world, somebody says you did something and it sucked. If I'm being my best self, I'm not making it about me and defending myself. I am seeking to understand how I accidentally caused so much harm so that I can communicate. I get it. And I need you to be able to trust me that that's not gonna happen again.

[00:35:22] Now that I understand what I could have done differently, you can trust me to do it. But the difference between I think somebody who's trustworthy and somebody you can count on to just keep doubling down on. I don't really give a shit. If you hurt, I'm going to keep doing it my way, which was more or less what I did in my.

[00:35:36] 'cause I thought I was right all the time, which is thought 

[00:35:40] Zach: So what about habit to tell us?

[00:35:42] Matthew Fray: habit two lives under the umbrella, the word consideration. And so what the average wife and mother says to me in this work is mad. I feel like I'm married to. Who doesn't consider me. And he makes decisions and the way she explains it, and the way that I visualize it is like an algebraic equation. She's a variable in the math equation.

[00:36:00] My husband's a variable in the math equation. Like children are variables in the math equation, the other side of the equal sign. It's whatever decision I make. I'm always factoring in me, my husband and each of my kids. So it's like what to have for dinner, where to go on vacation when to schedule appointments, you know, what clothes to buy.

[00:36:16] I'm always in, in decisions, large and small thinking. How, what I do and what I plan will roll downhill and impact all the people I care about. She's like, I'm married to somebody who doesn't do that. It's not that he doesn't love me. It's not that he's not a wonderful father. It's that there's sufficient evidence that many times throughout a given day, week, month, year, he made a decision that did not include.

[00:36:42] In that decision, it failed to account for me, or it hurts the already did it on purpose. And so wives are left to conclude. I'm either married to somebody who knows that, what he does or doesn't Do hurts me and he doesn't care and he just keeps doing it anyway. That's the worst case scenario. And the best case scenario is that I'm married to somebody who doesn't think about me at all.

[00:37:04] I'm married to somebody who routine. Doesn't even, I don't even register in his brain as a thing to calculate for when he makes a choice throughout a given day where I always consider him and I always consider our children. And so the absence of feeling considered by our. Feels you feel invisible and abandoned and disrespected, and that erodes safety and trust in a relationship not trust.

[00:37:31] Like he's a liar, he's a cheater, but trust in the, with the idea of, can I count on this human being? Is it reliable? Is it consistent? Is it statistically likely to be a healthy, safe place for me to be a year from now or five years from now or 10 years from now. And after many years of this, a lot of people. I'm going to have to compromise every ounce of self-esteem self-esteem self-respect personal values and boundaries I have in order to stay in this relationship, if he doesn't or she doesn't stop doing or start doing these things that are hurting me. And so people will over time Just say, I don't calculate this as a healthy relationship for me.

[00:38:11] I need to go. And that's how in my estimation, good people. Push each other apart. And the so-called good relationship erodes to one that one, or both people don't want to be a part of anymore. It takes a lot of years because these things present so small and the individual moments that we're in, they don't seem like a big deal at all, but add them up over a decade and there to deal.

[00:38:34] Jeremy: I want to ask you about vulnerability because that is a big part , of your book and what is now getting you a lot of attention. Why, why we're talking to you because of the way that you've shared this very painful. How much do you think it would have helped to be more vulnerable in your relationship?

[00:38:51] How, how strong is vulnerability when it comes to keeping those bonds and that safety and all that? Uh, 

[00:39:00] Matthew Fray: Incredibly. I think, I can't remember which client's wife said it to me. but I'm talking to her one time. I don't usually like work with couples. I usually work with the guy that will occasionally like meet. His partner. And she will like share with me, you know, what's going on. And it just like, kind of helps me like hone in when I'm, when I'm working with him.

[00:39:24] And she said to me, he's not honest with me. And I'm like, you mean, he lies? He says, no, it's not that he lies. It's that? I know he thinks things. And I know he feels. But he doesn't save them. He doesn't tell me, I know there's something that's true. And he withholds it from me. And it's not that it's like I'm suspicious and paranoid, but it's like, he's not letting me in he's he's not disclosing true things to me.

[00:39:51] Therefore, I can't trust them again, not in the lie way, but in the, in the reliability way. And this idea of can I count on you? Can, you know, are you going to, is this a reliable, safe thing for me to be a part of? And so, you know, I think a lot of guys are afraid of vulnerability. I think they associated with weakness and I've come to believe just totally the opposite.

[00:40:17] I spent my entire. First 33, 34 years of my life, pretending to be tough and stoic. All I was doing was just pretending to not hurt every time something hurt putting on like the tough guy faced. And that was a lot more cowardly than being honest about stuff that sucks. And I wish. I had communicated stuff that sucks with my or things where I was, I was often just like afraid of rejection.

[00:40:44] Like they, and there's so many things we don't say because we're afraid of judgment or afraid of rejection. And man single people out there, like say the stuff. On the second or third date like fail fast. If you're going to fail, don't go through a whole marriage, like hiding true stuff from your spouse, like, say, say it.

[00:41:04] And if, if she doesn't like you for who you actually are, I mean, do you want to wear a mask your whole life or do you want to be liked for Who you are is to me the conversation to have. And I just don't think there's anything weak or a feminine about being honest about what's actually true in here and in here.

[00:41:21] And I wish guys didn't feel like shamed into like hiding that stuff because I don't think it's healthy for them or the relationships. 

[00:41:30] Zach: In making that switch. Was that something that happened overnight for you or was that something that took a little while practice from going to 

[00:41:38] Matthew Fray: big time. It was, I felt so shitty after my wife left. I was so miserable and I wasn't afraid of rejection and judgment anymore. I didn't care. So I blocked it. And I got so accustomed to saying uncomfortably true things that we don't normally talk about in polite conversation and, um, a lot of practice.

[00:42:00] So that's, it's, it's an advantage in my estimation that I had over like average human at a lot of practice making public disclosures about true things that blog readers found out about in year. To have me blogging that, you know, my wife never heard about ever, unless, you know, she read it. And I mean that, I don't know.

[00:42:26] I guess I wasn't ready in my twenties, early thirties to bravely share true things with my wife, which is really unfortunate. Don't marry people. You're afraid to say true things too. I think just maybe the lesson in there. 

[00:42:39] Jeremy: I'm curious about your current relationship with your ex-wife. Now that you've changed it, are there regrets on either side? Is there, is there like, oh, Matt, now that you've changed, you've become the guy. I always wished you were, has there been. Any of that? Or are you guys just on, 

[00:42:55] Matthew Fray: It's more, it's more business like than that, but she's really kind, she invites me to, she invites me every year to like the in-laws Christmas gathered. , she's really cool. Like, and then like, if our son's birthday is having like a birthday party, like at her house or something, I mean, I'm always invited, uh, I'm the person that they go out of town that she asks to go like check on her pets and make sure the house is okay.

[00:43:16] We live relatively closely together. , it's cool. I'm like, I'm really proud of it because we've come a long way. Cause it was pretty contentious for the first, probably 12 months following our marriage ending. , And I mean, I just, I think that being the key ingredient was me learning how to accept personal responsibility.

[00:43:33] The truth is this habit we talked about earlier of consideration. You still have to practice that as a divorced guy. When you share children, like I have to be considerate of schedules and of clothes for our son and of just all of these things. I'm very mindful of her calendar and mine and communicating effectively.

[00:43:52] And we do, we do a really good. She just like yesterday was like, Hey, do you want to go to this parent thing? My son's about to enter high school. , next year, do you want to go to this parent thing at the high school, we have an opportunity to talk to the parents of seniors. And it's kind of like this introductory to the high school community thing.

[00:44:08] And I'm like, absolutely. And so she and I are going? to go. to that together and that's, that's not that. But there's nothing like romantic. It's not, she's been in a long-term relationship for four or five years and it's good. He's, he's a good dude. Like I like to tell people it's really uncomfortable.

[00:44:24] I think for people that are married to think about their wife was somebody else and it was extremely uncomfortable for me early, but you eventually get to the point where like, if you can trust a person to take care, fundamentally care for and be decent to your ex spouse and really most significantly your child.

[00:44:41] When you're not there to like doing anything about it. , that is an invaluable thing because not everybody with children and like split relationships has that a lot of people will have to stress about the wellness of their children. , and I've been very blessed not to have to do that. 

[00:44:58] Zach: We haven't even mentioned the name of your book, which I think is amazing, amazing, uh, title. So could you just tell us what the name of the book is and where people can find you, , and connect with you?

[00:45:07] Matthew Fray: Yes, sir. , thank you so much. The book is, this is how your marriage ends a hopeful approach to saving relationships. , it's pretty much everywhere. Books are sold, , both physical brick and mortar shops and certainly online and, um, I think anybody would really want to know about me can be found@matthewfreight.com and sort of my home on the internet.

[00:45:29] And thank you?

[00:45:29] so much for asking. I really appreciate it. 

[00:45:31] Jeremy: Thank you, Matthew Frey for joining us today, you can find links to his book and his work in the show notes. For this episode@thefitness.com and when he talked about fights, being over winning the battle of ideas, that's something that really stuck with me so many times when we get into those, those arguments , it's all just about being right.

[00:45:49] It's about winning and we sort of lose sight of what's at the root of. , when you ignore how your partner feels and they're communicating to you and you don't change, you don't empathize. , you don't realize where that pain is coming from. , it just makes them feel like shit. And you don't want to make anyone else feel like shit.

[00:46:07] If you can just try and start from a place of giving a shit and trying to understand the concern first, that's such a better place to start then. Yeah. But I want to be. 

[00:46:15] Zach: I say this all the time, in my mind, like this, this applies everywhere. And it's the difference between a successful, like at work, like a successful manager and a non-successful manager, even if like, if somebody's complaining about something or in a grievance. Even if you don't agree and you have to make a decision, that's the polar opposite of what they're asking about.

[00:46:39] If you just make sure that they know that you listened, just that alone can be the game changer, but if you just blow it off, whatever it is , without really listening and understanding their concerns, it just adds to the fire.

[00:46:56] Jeremy: Yeah. And that speaks to, , our second takeaway from the. It's not about the fucking dishes in the sink. It's about the message. Those dishes send, especially when your partner has shared that it's a problem that those little annoying things you do when you don't make any effort to change them.

[00:47:10] And you're just like, well, fuck it. I'm I'm me. And I'm going to be me and, you know, too bad. , that's not a healthy recipe for success. So you have to really think through your actions and how they're going to affect the other people in your life. And like you're saying, like those, those people at work that you have to.

[00:47:23] Go against whatever they're saying. Like whatever that relationship is when you just completely disregard whatever their pain point is, it just is such an awful place to, to start any conversation. 

[00:47:33] Zach: This kind of brings us into the next point to , my own relationship. Like we tried to fix it. So like we brought these things up to each other , and things still happen. So. The message that sends is really, really deep.

[00:47:48] When you make sure somebody knows that something bothers you and they keep doing it, that's a problem. It's a really big.

[00:47:55] Jeremy: And I think on the other side of that, and this is something that I see a lot in, in various Facebook groups and things that I'm in is I see a lot of these guys that, they sort of hear the message of. You don't do enough around the house, you don't whatever. And they start just doing the dishes and they start just doing the laundry and they figure out where the vacuum is and how it works.

[00:48:13] They think it's the act, right? They think it's the thing that's not being done. When, as, as Matthew mentioned, like, it's the underlying thing. It's the fact that like, trust has been broken. They feel like they can't count on you.

[00:48:24] That is what's really going on. So I hope that you don't take away from. Oh, I just need to do the dishes and everything will be fine. Oh, I just need to do the laundry and everything will be fine. Like there's some root shit you got to get to that will then hopefully make you feel like you want to participate and you want to be part of the solution and not just continue to be probably the source of the.

[00:48:44] Zach: All of these points really tie back to the underlying. Making sure that you're listening to your partner and understanding what it is that they're actually trying to communicate to.

[00:48:56] Jeremy: And that's a great place to stop the conversation on this episode, but don't let the conversation and they're joining us in our Facebook group where you and fellow fitness listeners can connect for monthly challenges and accountability to reach your goals. Everyone in that group is super supportive and we'd love to see you in there.

[00:49:10] That link is also at our website, the fitness.com, where we will be back next week with a brand new episode. Thanks for listening. 

MATT FRAYProfile Photo



Matthew (Matt) Fray is the author of This Is How Your Marriage Ends. He is a relationship coach and writer who leans on the lessons of his failed marriage and divorce to help others avoid making the same mistakes he did. His writing has been featured in The New York Times, The Sunday Times, The Huffington Post, Babble, and many more. His blog Must Be This Tall To Ride has a dedicated following and has reached millions of readers.